By Tuesday morning, the residents of Colorado City, Texas, were getting anxious. More than 24 hours had passed since a deadly Arctic blast knocked out power across the state, leaving them without heat or electricity in below-freezing temperatures. To make matters worse, many also lacked running water, forcing them to haul in heavy buckets of snow each time they needed to flush their toilets.
Residents turned to a community Facebook group to ask whether the small town planned to open warming shelters, while others wondered if firefighters could do their job without water. But when Colorado City’s mayor chimed in, it was to deliver a less-than-comforting message: The local government had no responsibility to help out its citizens, and only the tough would survive.
Boyd’s tirade, which also demanded that “lazy” residents find their own ways of procuring water and electricity, immediately drew backlash. Later on Tuesday, Boyd announced his resignation and admitted that he could have “used better wording.”
The controversy highlighted how one of the worst winter storms in decades is testing the limits of the embrace of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism in Texas. The state’s decision to skirt federal oversight by operating its own power grid is the one of the main reasons close to 3.3 million residents in Texas still lacked electricity by early Wednesday morning, while outages in other hard-hit states had dwindled to less than one-tenth of that size. As of late Tuesday, grid operators still couldn’t predict when the lights might turn on, and advocates were warning that Texas’ poorest and most vulnerable residents were at risk of freezing to death. At least 10 deaths in Texas have been linked to the winter storm since Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The failure to deliver basic services has angered countless Texans, including top-ranking elected officials. But in Colorado City, Boyd rejected the notion that municipal governments or utility companies had any obligation to provide paying customers with necessities like heat and running water during a catastrophic winter storm.
“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
Boyd suggested that residents without electricity should simply “step up and come up with a game plan.” Those without running water could either deal with it, or “think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family.” He did not offer any further guidance, such as where safe drinking water or reliable electricity could be found.
“Only the strong will survive and the [weak] will perish,” he wrote.
Home to roughly 4,000 people, Colorado City is located in between Abilene and the twin cities of Midland and Odessa, in a part of West Texas that’s best known for high school football and oil field jobs. Below-freezing temperatures aren’t uncommon in winter as winds sweep across the plains, but losing heat, power, water and the ability to cook at the same time was an unpleasant new experience for many in the area.
Though authorities across Texas encouraged residents to hunker down until power could be restored and avoid driving on dangerously icy roads, Boyd categorized those who were camped out in frigid homes and waiting for assistance as “lazy.”
“Folks, God [h]as given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this,” he wrote, claiming that those who expected the city to come to their aid were “sadly a product of a socialist government.”
In reality, community members already were doing their best to help each other out, offering to trudge through the snow to pick up supplies for neighbors or share water from their private wells. And as critics pointed out, even trying to access the emergency preparedness guide on Colorado City’s official webpage led to an error message.
Facing mounting anger on Tuesday, Boyd claimed that his comments “were taken out of context” and did not apply to the elderly, then continued to double down.
“I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout,” he wrote in a post that was later deleted, according to local media outlets.
Boyd also claimed that he was speaking in his capacity as a private citizen, and had already resigned from his position as mayor of Colorado City. He added that his wife had been fired from her job “over things I said” and said that his family was facing “undeserved” harassment and death threats.
“I won’t share any of those messages from those names as I feel they know who they are and hope after they see this they will retract the hateful things they have said!” he wrote.
Boyd could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night, and it wasn’t immediately clear if he resigned before or after writing his controversial Facebook post. As of early Wednesday morning, he was still listed as mayor on Colorado City’s website, and city council agendas showed that he had served in that role as recently as last week.
Get Boston.com's browser alerts:
Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.