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West Plains City Council, Businesses Face Backlash After Mask Mandate Passes

The Downtown Antique Mall is one of several businesses and restaurants on the historic court square in West Plains, Missouri.
File photo, courtesy of Downtown Antiques
The Downtown Antique Mall is one of several businesses and restaurants on the historic court square in West Plains, Missouri.


The City of West Plains passed a 90-day mask ordinance on November 4. While some residents supported the mandate, most voiced disapproval, and some called for the removal of councilmembers who supported the ordinance.


The ordinance requires those over the age of 10 in a public area to wear masks, with exceptions like eating in a restaurant. Officers will enforce the mandate with a reminder for the first violation and a warning and citation the second time. 

Councilwoman Jessica Nease voted for a West Plains mask ordinance twice.  The first time was in August, when the measure was struck down in a 3-2 vote.  And the second time was last week, when a revised ordinance convinced West Plains mayor, Jack Pahlmann, to switch sides and pass the mandate in another 3-2 vote. Nease says the week since the vote has been “kind of rough,” citing emails and comments she’s received by West Plains residents. 

“I’ve been called all sorts of wonderful names, like a Communist, and a fascist and a Nazi pig, which I never in a million years would have thought that’s something that would happen in West Plains," Nease said. "But there you have it. That’s the situation we’re in now.” 

The City of West Plains livestreamed the council meeting on its Facebook page.  Hundreds of people commented on the social media site, and the majority of them opposed the mandate.  

About a dozen comments called for Nease and councilman, Josh Cotter, who supported the ordinance, to be removed from office. One user posted a link to a Facebook page titled “Citizen’s Recall of Authoritarian Politicians,” whose stated purpose is to recall any West Plains councilmembers in favor of the mask mandate. 

Displeasure with the new rules apparently went beyond comments. On Friday, local sushi restaurant, Kiko Japanese Steakhouse, posted a statement on its Facebook page urging customers to “stop being mean or grab our team members.” Kiko confirmed to KSMU that a patron attacked a high school server after being asked to wear a mask. 

Jessica Nease says she understands that those who wanted a mask ordinance are in the minority in West Plains, but says she feels it’s her responsibility to try to protect people with compromised immune systems or who are scared for their health and the health of loved ones. 

“And as far as being voted out of office, I’ll still be able to sleep at night if I get voted out of office for advocating for those folks,” she told KSMU. 

As of November 6, the Howell County Health Department reported 1,939 total COVID cases, with 151 active. The county also reported 47 deaths. 

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.