By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The fallout over a recent billboard message at Town & Country Lanes continued last week as manager Mardi Smith quit.
Smith had been at Keizer’s bowling alley for 10 years and had been manager since 2010. Don Lebold has owned Town & Country for 47 years.
On July 2, Lebold posted a message about the recent Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriages: “Judges making decisions contrary to the word of God will they themselves be judged.”
Things were quiet for a few days, but word of the message went viral on July 7. By the next day, the message was making national headlines. Smith posted on the bowling alley’s Facebook page the message was solely Lebold’s and did not reflect any other employees at the business. There were immediately dozens of responses, most highly critical of the bowling alley. The post was eventually removed, but soon the page was filled with negative one-star reviews. By the end of last week, the Facebook page was taken down.
On July 15, Smith announced on her Facebook page she would be leaving her job.
“I regret that I now announce that I must separate myself from the leadership of Town & Country Lanes,” Smith wrote. “I am giving my reluctant resignation effective July 29 to pursue available business opportunities within our community with the same fervor and enthusiasm with which I have built relationships, programs and business collaborations with so many of you during my work at Town & Country. I look forward to new opportunities and thank each and everyone who supported me during this service.”
By July 17, however, Smith had already left.
Lebold said last Friday he talked with Smith the day before about the sign board incident and the fallout for the first time, though Smith refuted that account and said there had been “many discussions” prior to July 16, the day she quit.
“I told her how unhappy I was with her for putting that message up on Facebook,” Lebold said. “She really threw me under the bus. I was upset with her for not supporting me. I told her this all never would have happened if she had called me. What I said on the board was interpreted far differently from what I expected. I’m sorry my message was wrongly interpreted. God’s word is my standard. I love people of all races and beliefs. I’ve never been accused of being discriminatory in my 47 years here.”
Lebold noted he’s had a lesbian manager in the past and currently has two African-American employees and a bisexual employee.
“The bible is God’s word,” he said. “The bible makes it clear marriage is between a man and a woman. The bible also says you will be persecuted for your beliefs. That’s exactly what is happening now. I’m being made out to be a bad guy. It shows how intolerant they are.”
Lebold said he had received many cards and letters in support since the incident began, plus had 20 phone calls and 15 people stopping by to see him.
“There’s never been one negative person that stopped by to talk with me,” he said. “It’s all been positive. There have been negative phone calls in the morning when I haven’t been here, but I’m getting a lot of support from various pastors and others. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support. Almost all of the negative has been on the internet.”
Smith on Tuesday had no regrets about her decision to leave.
“I will miss serving and interacting with the city,” she said. “I enjoyed the last 10 years of business development and community collaboration. It’s like the day you wake up and realize that your jeans don’t fit. You can choose to be uncomfortable or wear something else.”