SALYERSVILLE – A city councilman used a racial slur in Monday night’s meeting, resulting in an immediate adjournment of the meeting and now many public statements from local officials regarding what was said.
During mayor’s report in the October 18 meeting, Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd was updating the council on the times and scheduling of the Ghost Walk and Trick-or-Treat night, when another conversation about scheduling between councilman Colin Ray Jackson and another council member across the room included Jackson using a racial slur to describe someone in charge of making a decision.
Jackson told the other person, “You’re the h*** n***** in charge,” using a racial slur referring to someone in a leadership role.
On Tuesday, Shepherd made the following public statement regarding the incident:
“The past 10 years as your Mayor I have worked diligently to make Salyersville a better place for all of our citizens. A place we could be proud of and one that visitors who come here will feel welcome and enjoy the beauty of our city. I have always had great support from you and the city councils that have served with me.
“We are continuously working to obtain grants and loans for numerous projects. Obtaining this financial aid depends a lot on the perception the leaders at the state and federal levels have of our local elected officials.
“At last night’s city council meeting a comment was made by a city council member that could put a lot of our efforts in jeopardy. The statement was racist in nature. Myself and the other five council members were shocked and wish to say we do not and will not condone in any shape, form, or fashion the comment that was made. Thank you, Mayor James Pete Shepherd”
During Tuesday’s Magoffin County Fiscal Court meeting, Judge/Executive Matt Wireman also read this statement for himself and the Magoffin County Fiscal Court:
“As many of you are now aware a racial slur was made by a city council member at the October 18, 2021, Salyersville City Council Meeting. First and foremost, let me say as a caring human being and as your County Judge/Executive, I on behalf of the Magoffin County Fiscal Court and the Citizens of Magoffin County, want it known that we are a welcoming, inclusive, and loving community and this city council member does not in any manner, speak for the judge/executive, the fiscal court or our fine citizens. In addition, the Magoffin County Fiscal Court, the citizens of Magoffin County and I, without hesitation, adamantly condemn the comments made by this city council member.”
On Wednesday the Independent talked to Councilman Colin Ray Jackson, who is adamant he is not racist, and the statement was just a “slip of the tongue.”
In a prepared statement, Jackson said, “On October 18, 2021, at our Salyersville City Council meeting, I made a comment to two fellow council members that I regret, but in no way was intended as a racial slur or directed toward any group of people. I want to state clearly for the record I am not racist. I have served in the military and befriended service men of many different races. I love the citizens of Magoffin County and will continue to serve the city of Salyersville, but with a renewed humble awareness of those around me, the town that I serve and the present time one lives in.”
Jackson told the Independent he regretted the statement, and he knows he will never use that word, again, but further noted, “If I offended anybody in this county, I am sorry.”
Mayor Shepherd also told the Independent he has asked Jackson to resign at noon on Wednesday and said he gave him until noon on Thursday to do so. If he does not resign by then, Shepherd said he plans to call a special meeting of the council. Per state statute, the other five council members would have to vote in favor of removing Jackson in order to remove him from office, Shepherd said.
This is an ongoing issue, with media attention growing outside of the county, so the Independent will announce updates on the matter as they become available.
Good News from the Meeting
The meeting was not a complete loss, however. Prior to the meeting-ending statement, community member Laken Bailey addressed the council regarding the need for a sensory tent at local events, which would provide a safe space for people with special needs, especially sensory issues, that may be overstimulated by the crowds and noise to go to for a safe space to enjoy the event their own way, allowing their families to also have a good time. The council agreed to purchase a sensory tent on the spot.
Bailey posted on Facebook, announcing the big news Monday night, “Y’all I have some super exciting news! Although I’m not a great public speaker (I get so nervous), I spoke at the City Council meeting this evening to propose sensory tents at all of Salyersville’s events (Parades, Car Shows, Founders Day, Community Days, etc…) and it’s approved! Our sensory tent will include bean bags, crash pads, sensory bins, bubble lamps, and dim lighting. With tons of families in Salyersville who have children or loved ones with sensory issues, I’m sure everyone here knows and loves someone personally who struggles. We are planning to have the tent set up in time for Salyersville’s Christmas events this year. The tent will be a good spot for children/adults with sensory issues who become overstimulated by the crowds, noise, and lights. Please feel free to utilize the tent as needed so your family may enjoy Salyersville’s festivities! As I told the council tonight, the ultimate wish for special needs parents is to make the whole world inclusive, and even if we may not be able to get that far, it starts with our hometown. Please share and get the word out!”
More information about the tent will be released at a later date.