Caldwell County creates monument advisory committee
By Wesley Gardner
Caldwell County Commissioners on Tuesday considered removing the Confederate monument on the front lawn outside the courthouse but ultimately voted to create a committee that would be tasked with finding a compromise.
Each of the four commissioners and the county judge will appoint one member to the committee, the Caldwell County Historical Commission will appoint two members and County Judge Hoppy Haden and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Roland will round out the group.
Selections to the committee will be considered for approval at the next commissioners court meeting in two weeks. The committee will then have one month to bring a recommendation back to commissioners for approval.
The item was initially brought to the court two weeks ago after Lockhart resident and business owner Cody Kimbell contacted Haden to initiate discussions for the monument’s removal. Kimbell spoke in depth when the item came up for discussion. His speech can be read in its entirety on the Post-Register’s website.
Roland opened up discussion between the commissioners on the item today, arguing that a decision this large should be put to a countywide vote.
“This is a lot of pressure to put on five people, because there’s no way to win,” said Roland. “No matter which way we vote, at least 50 percent of the people are going to be against.”
Precinct 2 commissioner Barbara Shelton, who proposed a countywide vote at their last meeting, said that was still her preferred option. Two weeks ago, the option drew skepticism because the demographic makeup of the county. According to 2010 census data, the county was made up of roughly 75 percent whites compared to only about 7 percent African American.
“I have talked to many people, not only in my precinct, but all over the county,” said Shelton. “I probably have talked to more that have approved to take it to the citizens to vote because they say they’ll vote to have it removed than I have those that say leave it still.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Theriot said he felt the issue was simply divisive to put it to have it decided in an election.
“I think it would be the most divisive election Caldwell County has experienced,” said Theriot.
“It would have the potential to continue to be an issue and continue to divide the folks in this county.
“I believe the five of us are charged with making a decision. I think we need to accept that responsibility and exercise that authority.”
Theriot said that while he didn’t feel moving the monument was the answer, he wouldn’t be opposed to having certain aspects of the monument deemed offensive, such as the Confederate flags on the side or the phrase “Confederate,” removed from the monument completely. He also proposed that a historical marker or separate monument be placed nearby to that would explain the Confederate monument’s under today’s context.
“I feel like just taking that monument and moving it somewhere else passes up a unique and probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell a story and let everyone come together around that story,” said Theriot.
Precinct 1 Commissioner B.J. Westmoreland expressed concern over repurposing the monument.
“I think regardless of any effort to remove or put into any kind of context any of the items that are deemed inappropriate, I don’t know if you removed them, if you’ve removed the feeling,” said Westmoreland.
Westmoreland said that while he didn’t necessarily oppose moving the monument to the county museum, he’d been told by several citizens that they felt that would be taking the easy way out.
“I don’t think moving it to the museum is the easy way out,” said Haden. “That is a museum – a place where things that need to be placed in a historical context, I think, should be.
“I think it could be put there and I think it could have a plaque or another monument put right next to it that contextualizes it in today’s light. The Holocaust Museum exists so that we never as a world society repeat what happened to the Jewish people. Those kinds of places serve a purpose in the world, and the purpose is to not lose the history, good or bad, whatever it may be.”
Haden decided against making a motion to move the monument, noting he didn’t have the votes necessary for it to pass. He provided the only dissenting vote against forming the committee.