The task force charged with evaluating the Williamson County seal that bears the image of a Confederate flag decided unanimously this week to have the controversial symbol removed.
In a 30-page report submitted to Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson’s office Monday, the nine-member task force recommended the upper-left quadrant of the county seal containing the Confederate flag be altered and either replaced with another flag or be removed entirely. The county commission will vote on the recommendation at its next meeting scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14.
“This is exciting news,” Dustin Koctar, board member of the Franklin Justice & Equity Coalition, said during the organization’s Facebook Live event Thursday night. “This is a great step in the right direction.
“[The task force] was very thorough in its report. They did an amazing job connecting with local businesses, understanding the historical significance of the flag, understanding the moment we’re in today, and also reaching out and learning more about the business and economic impact it would have to either keep the flag on our seal or to change it.”
Chaired by Williamson Inc. CEO Matt Largen, the task force examined the impact of the seal’s image on business, tourism, social and public interest, and financial. The other eight members are Ellie Westman Chin, vice chair, Emily Bowman, secretary, Lisa Campbell, Inetta Gaines, Paula Harris, Hewitt Sawyers, Rick Warwick and Chris Williamson.
The report included an anecdote about a candidate interviewing for a CEO position with a major business in Williamson County, and one of his questions had to do with the county seal.
“[It showed that] someone obviously cares about this and wanted to know what the community was doing and how it was going to impact those businesses,” Koctar said.
In addition, the report included a letter from a number of businesses and corporations in the county, including Nissan, Mars Petcare and Mitsubishi Motors, stressing the need for the seal alteration.
“Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is a top priority for our businesses,” the letter reads in part. “For many, the Confederate flag represents the exact opposite as a symbol of racial prejudice and inequality, and it has no place as an official government insignia that is intended to represent all.
“We believe the seal is long overdue for an update and now is the time to take swift action to redesign the seal and remove the flag.”
Koctar, who was one of the panelists for Thursday’s FJEC Facebook Live event, said changing the seal is but a step in making Williamson County more equitable for all.
“Ultimately, today we got some good news and we can celebrate that and stay focused on the larger picture at hand,” he said. “This is a symbol and it’s significant, but there’s a lot of other work to be done.”
Moderated by Walter Simmons, co-founder of the FJEC, the most recent Facebook Live event focused on the effects of Confederate branding. Along with Koctar, other panelists were Pastor Cleon Harrison; Erica Gentry, a social worker and lifelong resident of Franklin; Sam Ridley Jr., a board member of the FJEC and also a lifelong resident of Franklin; and Brad Perry, a local history teacher and one of the founders of The Public.
The next FJEC Facebook Live will be held Sept. 10 and will focus on affordable housing in Franklin and Williamson County.