Rep. O’Malley calls for county official who used N-word over masks to resign

    Susan J. Demas

    Tom Eckerle, a northern Michigan road commissioner, reportedly used N-word to explain why he refused to wear a face mask during a recent Leelanau County Road Commission meeting.

    Eckerle was asked by another road commissioner at a body meeting on Tuesday why he wasn’t wearing a mask because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eckerle responded: “Well, this whole thing is because of them [N-words] down in Detroit,” according to Leelanau Enterprise reporting.

    Jack O’Malley

    Word of the incident prompted swift response by state Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann), who chairs the House Transportation Committee.  

    “After speaking with a number of individuals in the district today, I must say that I am shocked and disappointed to hear of the comments that were made by Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle before a recent commission meeting,” O’Malley said.

    He then contacted Eckerle to confirm that he used the word. Eckerle confirmed that he did, according to O’Malley.

    “This type of racial slur is flat-out unacceptable and ignorant,” O’Malley continued. “I asked Mr. Eckerle to resign his position as road commissioner in light of these comments and shall he refuse, the citizens of Leelanau County have every right to recall him from office. It saddens me to have to even make this statement.”

    Eckerle, a Republican, was elected to the commission in 2018. A call to Eckerle was not returned.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.