EAST WENATCHEE — East Wenatchee City Council member John Sterk has resigned as the city’s representative on the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center board, citing an upcoming drag show event.

“When the museum puts on a program of drag queens, I don’t think that reflects the values of our community by and large,” Sterk said during a council meeting Tuesday night. “I know people will disagree with that, but I have to — I’m like everyone else. I put my name on certain things and that is not something that I endorse at all, so that’s my rationale behind my departure from the board.”

Sterk made his comments toward the end of the council meeting, saying he wanted to clarify his decision. Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Jerrilea Crawford announced Sterk was stepping down and asked for a volunteer to fill it. Council members Robert Tidd, Sasha Sleiman and Shayne Magdoff offered their time. The position ultimately went to Magdoff, who was Sterk’s alternate.

Sterk has been on the council since 2016. He is a pastor at Bethel Baptist Church.

The museum is holding “A Dragtastic Event” on June 17 from 8 to 10 p.m. The event, which is limited to ages 21 and older, will feature a catwalk, beer, wine and a special signature cocktail.

Museum spokesperson Ashley Sinner said as a cultural center, the museum works to educate and raise awareness about the valley’s cultural heritage. 

“Reflecting the diversity of that heritage is a critical part of our museum’s work. We cannot claim to be truly essential to society if we are not accessible to all,” Sinner said in an email. “We are striving to take action by changing policies and aligning our programs and educational opportunities to advance equity and break down barriers. We are pushing ourselves to question our assumptions, and challenge our thinking through how we present our exhibits and programs.”

Although the event is the museum’s first drag show, it won’t be the community’s.

 The YWCA hosts a Hallow-Queens Drag Show each October. YWCA Executive Director Rachel Todd said Sterk was wrong in saying a drag event doesn’t reflect the community’s values.

“The type of event that a drag show is and the type of values that it represents is being able to embrace everybody and being able to embrace our entire community,” Todd said. “It’s such an incredible, vibrant performance and it has also created this incredibly safe and open space for people to really truly be able to express themselves and be themselves.”

She added that it’s important to create and promote safe spaces within the community.

“The comments from council member Sterk indicate that he is not a safe person for a large portion of our community and he doesn’t represent safety or inclusivity for our community,” Todd said. “I worry about the harm that can be perpetuated by comments like this on such a public platform and in a position with such influence.”

She added that while Sterk’s comments don’t represent the majority opinion of the community, she does believe he is reflective of a smaller portion.

“It’s not just council member Sterk; it’s a larger conversation that we need to be having with our whole community,” Todd said. “I would love for this whole conversation to be about the positive, inclusive environment that we’re building. And the people who don’t want to be a part of that, they can definitely step aside.”

Wenatchee Pride President Lincoln Nere said the organization is partnering with the museum for the Dragtastic Event and supports having the event during Pride Month.

“Drag is a foundational in queer culture and a wonderful way to celebrate the queer community that resides in Wenatchee,” Nere said. “We’re very excited to be partnering with the museum this year and applaud them for extending the museum’s cultural education to include everyone within the valley.”

Sydnee Gonzalez: (509) 661-5216

gonzalez@wenatcheeworld.com or

on Twitter @sydnee_gonzalez

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