But as the months went by, none of the people he had bought lunch for, or helped get funding for their organizations, stood up for him. A former military member whom he counted as a friend even joined the Enid Freedom Fighters. He felt as if he were living in a town that no longer recognized him.
The attention he did get was sometimes menacing. His daughter, 7 at the time, was picked on at school because of his stance. Military security on the base where Mr. Waddell now works as a civilian handling IT operations took him aside to tell him about threats against him, though noted it did not think they would be acted on. He began checking a security camera at his house through an app on his phone.
“There’s just this vitriol in this place that we chose,” said Mr. Waddell, who is 41. “We’re ostracized from the community that we chose. It’s kind of a surreal feeling.”
The city commissioner who introduced the mask mandate, Ben Ezzell, a lawyer and artist, got veiled warnings too — mostly via email and Facebook. Someone dumped trash on his lawn. At one City Council meeting, a man shouted that he knew where Mr. Ezzell lived. Another meeting got so tense that police officers insisted on escorting him to his car.
But Mr. Ezzell, who is 35, was not done arguing for the mandate. As summer turned to fall, and Covid cases began to spike, it seemed like the logical thing to do. So he kept bringing it up in meetings, prompting Ms. Crabtree and the Freedom Fighters to begin the process of trying to recall him to stop it. She also accused him of acting disrespectfully, for example, using profanity and doodling during people’s speeches. (He said he drew lemmings walking off cliffs to stay calm, particularly when comment sessions from emotional residents went on for hours.)
A prominent supporter of the recall effort was Ms. Crabtree’s pastor, Wade Burleson, whose church, Emmanuel Enid, is the largest in town. Enid has a substantial upper middle class, with large homes and a gated community near a country club and a golf course, and many of those families are part of the church’s 3,000-strong congregation.