Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh Didn’t Just Get a Haircut, He Opened the Floodgates

District 5 Shasta County Supervisor Les Baugh hams it up with his barber, Woody Clendenen at Cottonwood Barber Shop in Cottonwood Friday. Photo source: Les Baugh’s Facebook page.

So, here’s the thing, Les. You got a haircut Friday when barber shops are still considered non-essential businesses during a global pandemic. You blatantly defied state-mandated restrictions that the lion’s share of nearly 40 million Californians have obeyed since March 19.

Do you think you’re the only one who wanted a haircut? Do you think others might like to visit their barbers and hairstylists and manicurists and dog groomers and others who provide first-world essential services? Do you think I’m not weary of explaining to my grandchildren why we must remain strong and stay apart a while longer, for everyone’s sake?

Let’s face it, Les. We’re not stupid, and your haircut wasn’t really about your need for a haircut. Let’s not even pretend. Your haircut was a way to thumb your nose at state restrictions implemented to keep us safe in the middle of a deadly pandemic; rules that you and many people here in Northern California may disagree with.

Do you think anyone likes these rules? Do you think there isn’t one person among us who doesn’t wish we could turn back the clock to when we could roam as we pleased? Is there a mentally capable person alive who doesn’t wish this pandemic was all a bad dream, or better yet, that the novel coronavirus didn’t exist?

Dear Lord, where is magical thinking when we need it most? Hear our prayers!

Les, do you truly believe your silly hair-cutting stunt in which you implicated your loyal barber was worth the fine he may face for defying rules that thousands of law-abiding other hair stylists have obeyed, despite their wishes to do otherwise? Will you pay your barber’s fine if he is penalized?

Les, you blew it big time when you walked into that Cottonwood barbershop last Friday and mugged for the camera and got a haircut in a place that hadn’t been given the green light to re-open yet.

You compounded that mistake when you posted your photo on Facebook, and wrote your list of excuses for why it was OK for you to ignore orders mandated by the CDC, the governor, and our local Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency. As if we all get to hand-pick which rules we’ll obey, and which ones we’ll ignore. State and federally mandated orders are not optional, like items on a personalized cafeteria menu, Les.

Who cares if you needed a haircut, or if you wanted a haircut, or whether you and your followers are tired of obeying rules you don’t like and don’t agree with.

The main point, Les, is that you, an elected Shasta County leader, not only willfully and knowingly broke the state mandates during an international crisis, but you bragged and joked about it on Facebook. As of this writing, your haircut post has received 522 comments, and 124 shares. I’ve selected a sample of those comments as examples of the public’s reaction to your haircut during the north-state shutdown.

Sample comments from Les Baugh’s haircut Facebook post

“Do as I say, not as I do? Wow! And you are a Supervisor! This doesn’t set a very good example! I am disappointed! I need a hair cut too, but my hair stylist is abiding by the stay at home orders, as I am as well!”

” ‘Not an anti anything.’ ” Please Mr. Baugh, you must have forgotten you represent not only the citizens of your district but the citizens of the entire county. It sure looks to me like, apart from your desperate need for a haircut, you’re clearly making a statement against the government’s approach to the deadly virus that has already killed thousands of our fellow citizens. I’m sure that as a county supervisor, you have the duty and obligation all the time to make decisions based on the facts and your good judgment. Let’s respect our governor for doing the same thing”

“Good for both of you! Get this Country moving. If you want to shelter up, do. Free Country.”

“You just lost my support.”

“Woody Clendenen and Les Baugh thank you for taking a stand and getting back to business!”

“As a salon owner, who is remaining closed, following both the state and county guidelines this is a major slap in the face and a direct do as I say, not as I do. I’ve been watch our county reports DAILY and listened to the city council reports and guidelines to see if we will open sooner than later. This is extremely disrespectful and not to mention despite what you say NO safety precautions are visibly happening here. We can get reported, fined and lose licenses. Barbering and cosmetology board was all over this yesterday. For fucks sake open us ALL back up if you believe, as a city leader, this is truly fine for the general public and not just your arrogant self.”

“What you are telling me is that YOU want to do what YOU want to do but YOU want me to do what YOU want me to do: I shelter in place for months because I’m ‘elderly’ while YOU do as you please. We’re not a completely free country. We have laws and mandates and orders and health directives. Grow up”

“Could you possibly be more disrespectful to the many non-essential businesses that are following the state and county guidelines? Shame on you.”

“I’m a hairstulist in town and this makes me so happy to see. I opened my doors a few weeks ago too. I didn’t ask for permission! This nonsense has got to stop! This is great!! We are humans! 90% of my clients are booking their appts. Freedom ????????????????”

” . . . I have two friends who are hair dressers and are following the rules and staying closed because they received threats that they would get fined $1000 if they opened their salon and they are seriously struggling really bad. I think the rules should apply to all so she could open too, I say use gloves, wear a mask and clean your station and only see one person at a time that to me is safe since a lot of elderly people get the hair done. You going against the rules only makes the ones who are following them want to break the rules too. Hair dressers should be able to open too if Barbers can. PS I love you Les Baugh you little rule breaker.”

“Gutsy Supervisor”

“As a nurse, this post is a slap in my face. Every day I go into work, I pray I won’t have to isolate myself from my family. A mask is such a small consideration. Would’ve been nice to have seen you both wearing masks for your ‘friends and family with compromised immune systems or at risk health’ ”

“My kid needs a haircut more than you, but I tell him no…not until the stay at home order for salons is lifted. Its not about fear, its about following orders, so we can ALL end this mess ASAP. Good to know that you think the rules don’t apply to you.”

“Yes, how can you expect the general population to abide by the rules if you don’t..Nobody likes the rules…but as a community leader this is well predictably disappointing.”

“Preaching to the choir my brother! Forward this to Gavin.”

“How dare you promote common sense!?!? Love ya buddy.”

“Open up the north state. You just started it les”

“Good !! Thankful for you standing up for your right and ours to move forward .. wish all officials thought more like you do”

The comments go on and on, but that’s a good sample. I don’t know that I could add anything new to the hundreds of comments that have already been posted on your Facebook page. And I confess, I didn’t get through them all, but could see that they mostly fell into one of two categories:
1. Way to go, Les Baugh. You’re an American hero.
2. Shame on you, Les Baugh. You’re an arrogant idiot. 

I admit, when I sat down to write this piece, and I logged onto your Facebook page, I was pretty sure you would have deleted your barbershop post by now. I figured that you’d have received so many blistering comments and so much public scorn that you would have removed the post.  I further imagined that after you removed the post, you’d see the light and write a public apology for behaving so irresponsibly at a time when people look to you for intelligence and guidance when people are feeling tested, frightened and uncertain.

But no, there your post is, exactly as you wrote it last Friday. complete with the photo of you, eyes wide, mouth agape, as your barber stands behind you, smiling, pulling up a fistful of wispy hair. Here’s that post, for those who missed it:

“The time has come…
Yep, got my haircut. Why? Because I needed a haircut. Couldn’t stand it any longer. Grateful Woody was open. Came away feeling like a man again. I know some will say this is wrong and that somehow I’m killing someone by getting my haircut. Here’s the way I see it… The Barber Shop is open. Woody, a free man, a barber, working, earning an honest living, supporting his family, is cutting hair. I needed a haircut. No one forced me to come through the door. Got my essential haircut. Left a nice tip. Feel better. Perhaps most importantly, who has the right to say going to the barber is wrong, or the PC word for it, ‘non-essential?’ No one can convince me that my thoughtful, intelligent barber is any less safe than restaurants cooking food and bringing it to the curb. How do I really know my favorite food is being handled and prepared in a safe manner? I don’t. What makes buying flowers at the grocery store or ice cream at Sonic ‘essential?’ What makes hummingbird feeders purchased at the local hardware store any more essential than mental and physical well-being? Right or wrong, we each get to choose. I am absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that my recent trek to a Redding big-box store put me at far greater risk than sitting in my barber’s chair. But that also was my choice. For the hundreds of people in the big-box store, obviously their choice as well. I was pleased to see Woody spritz and carefully wipe down the chair, as well as throughly wash his hands. Even the patriotic cape had a fresh bleached fragrance to it. Much appreciated. For my friends and family with compromised immune systems or at risk health, please do not leave your homes. I am not advocating for you to leave your homes. I do not want you to leave your homes. Stay in and stay safe. In case you want to know… this is not an ‘anti’ anything or anyone post, just my personal, practical way of moving forward, and… I needed a haircut.
— with Susie Baugh and Woody Clendenen at Cottonwood Barber Shop.”

Stupid rules

I hate Redding’s red light cameras. Every one of them. I think they’re supremely stupid, especially since I received a red-light ticket on Hilltop and Cypress a few years ago. I resented the ticket, because it seemed so unjust (the yellow light is a shorter duration than before, I just know it!), but I paid it anyway, because that’s the way it works when you’re an adult in a civilized society. Sometimes we do things we dislike and obey rules we aren’t crazy about.

Car seat regulations demand these arbitrary guidelines that say infants, babies, toddlers and children must be restrained by a certain type of car seat depending upon their body weight, and the car seat rules even dictate where in the car the car seats go, and even which direction they face. I grew up just fine without car seats, and I’m still alive to tell about it. And my grandkids hate it when they have to ride in the back seat, when the front passenger seat is empty and available. Tell me this: When was the last time you heard of a child being decapitated by an exploding airbag while riding in the front seat of a car? Exactly. You never hear of that happening. Damn meddling fear mongers.

It seems every summer public health officials report supposedly unsafe levels of E. coli at Whiskeytown Lake, and so then our county’s official party poopers put up warning signs and tell us we’re not allowed to swim there. Personally, although granted, I’m no scientist, the water always looks pretty clean to me.  Hell, fish swim in it just fine. I think well-meaning public health folks should just butt out of our business and let everyone go swim in a shit-filled lake and dodge rafts of Pamper turds until we die of sunburn, if that’s what we want to do. It’s our right as Americans.

Gosh, Les, remember back to the Carr Fire of 2018, when so many of us were evacuated from our homes, despite wishing we could stay behind? What a drag that was, to be homeless, valuable food rotting in our refrigerators and freezers that had no electricity. Personally, although again, I’m no fire expert, the fire didn’t seem all that close or that dangerous to me, even though there were charred leaves all over my lawn.  I think we all should have been able to do exactly what we wanted, and trust our gut instincts to tell us when it was safe to return to our homes, not bossy law enforcement.

You’ve heard that joke that asks for the definition of an expert, right? An x is an unknown, and a spurt is a drip under pressure. We don’t need no stinkin’ experts, Les, to scare us with all kinds of nonsense about fires or snowstorms or the weather or pandemics or invisible viruses. We’ve got free will, and by god, we should all be able to do exactly what we want, when we want it, how we want it.

And damn it, Les, extrapolating from all my examples, I can see how you could justify your desire for a haircut, despite what our governor ordered, despite the fact that my hairstylist is among an occupation that isn’t allowed to re-open yet. Screw it! I’m going to follow the leader (that’d be you), and get a haircut. You’re right, Les. It’s my right as a citizen of the USA to follow only the rules I like and that I agree with.

Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds, Les?  Do you hear how self-indulgent, immature and reckless that sounds, Les?

Les, you proclaim yourself as a Christian and a pastor, someone who believes in the sanctity of life. Well, Pastor Baugh, a large flock of people follow you, listen to you, respect you and look up to you for guidance and leadership. You know what leadership is, right? Leadership means you’re at the helm, and you literally lead people by word, by deed and by example.

Lead us not into temptation, Les.

Maybe you thought that your hair-cutting stunt would make you a local hero among your voters and potential voters. Maybe you even fantasized that you’d get arrested, and then your sheep, draped in red, white and blue, would flock to the jail to bleat the injustice of it all. No doubt you’d earn national headlines over all that: County Supervisor Arrested for Getting Haircut in Non-Essential Barbershop

Pretty sensational stuff, Les.  But the fallout would be a sort of win-win situation for you, wouldn’t it? What we’ve got here is a case when even the worst reactions could work in your favor, here in our red county where the majority of voters despise our governor.

You know the part that really got me about your Facebook post, Les? This part: “I know some will say this is wrong and that somehow I’m killing someone by getting my haircut.”

Such flippant, thoughtless words during such a dangerous time.

Here’s another headline for you, Les, one that that might appear sometime this summer: Shasta County Sees Spike in Covid-19 Deaths Following Premature Re-opening

Could you live with that, Les, if your protest haircut opened the floodgates to civil disobedience that led to the most dire of consequences: the loss of human life?

How many deaths is your one haircut worth, Les?

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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