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WNC elected officials reluctant to speak on monuments

Barely half of the elected officials contacted by SMN responded. Barely half of the elected officials contacted by SMN responded. Cory Vaillancourt photo

WNC elected officials reluctant to speak on monuments

By Cory Vaillancourt

Staff Writer

On Wednesday, June 10, The Smoky Mountain News sent emails to 43 elected officials in Haywood, Jackson and Macon Counties, along with Western North Carolina’s current state legislative delegation, asking for their position on the removal of Confederate imagery. Emails were also sent to candidates competing against elected officials this coming November. As of press time on June 16, almost half of them failed to take a position.

Not all responses were used in a June 17 Smoky Mountain News story (“Confederate memorials still a monumental issue”) but in the interest of transparency, full responses from those who did respond are available below.

Here’s a list of those who did not respond.

Haywood County commissioners

None

Waynesville aldermen

Gary Caldwell (mayor)

Julia Boyd Freeman

Jackson County commissioners

Boyce Dietz

Mickey Luker

Sylva commissioners

Lynda Sossamon (mayor)

Mary Gelbaugh

Ben Guiney

Barbara Hamilton

Macon County commissioners

Ronnie Beale

Paul Higdon

Gary Shields

Jim Tate

Franklin council members

Joe Collins

David Culpepper

Jack Horton

Mike Lewis

Dinah Mashburn

Barbara McRae

 

Haywood County commissioners 

Kevin Ensley (chairman)

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

It is my understanding the monument on the courthouse lawn honors Confederate War soldiers. Traditionally our courthouse lawn is home to Revolutionary, WW II, Korean & Vietnam War soldiers. So I would not want any marker removed since it honors those Americans who fought & died in wars.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

Possibly if it related to soldiers involved in the Civil War. A more appropriate venue would be the lobby of the Justice Center where justice is served.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I have always favored local control of decisions affecting communities. And I will favor that in this instance.

Kirk Kirkpatrick

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

No I do not believe the monuments in Haywood County should be removed.  There are two monuments in Haywood.  One is located on Sulphur Springs Road and commemorates the last shot fired in the Civil War.  We should recognize and celebrate the end of a War that caused so much division and death in our own Country.  I do not see it as a sign of Racism. The other monument is the Confederate Soldiers Memorial located at the Old Courthouse.  It recognizes those individuals who gave their life in battle for their State and beliefs.  They are ancestors of people who lived and later developed Haywood County as we know and love it now.  My Great Great Grandfather fought in the Civil War and recorded most of the events he experienced.  He later became a Superior Court judge in Haywood County.  His name was Garland Ferguson.  His brothers and cousins also fought in that war.  That is historical and meaningful.  You cannot go back and erase time and monuments and pretend history never happened but you can see, learn and remember what happened and try not to repeat the errors of our ancestors. I do not believe in slavery or racism but I will not erase my history and heritage because someone believes that anything to do with the Civil War or the Confederacy means you are a Racist. You must remember that slavery was occurring long before the African Americans were enslaved in the American colonies and the original States.  Great civilizations were built on and depended on slavery such as the Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans as well as the British Empire.  We know today that all men are created equal and slavery is wrong and should not be repeated.  We also know that since all men are created equal they should not be judged by the color of their skin or their personal beliefs.  Today we live in a world where if you are not on one side then you have to be on the other and if you are on the other side you are wrong and mean.  That is not the way it should be.  All persons should be allowed the think freely and make their own choices but at the same time love their neighbors and their enemies and treat them as you would want to be treated.  That is not so for the minority of people in this country nor the media that propagates these issues.  I believe that loving your neighbor means people need to stop talking about White and Black and racism and move on to talking about what is truly good and bad and who is truly good and bad. 

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this? 

No.  Everyone knows the Civil War was won by the Union and slavery was abolished in the United States.  If you have studied history since that time you will see that the US has made great strides in fighting racism and providing minorities with better and more opportunities than before.  Affirmative Action is just one of many ways we as a Nation have tried to provide equality to all.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I have not researched this issue but if the Governor has the statutory power to order such and the legislature supports it then I as a Commissioner would comply but I do not believe in removing historical monuments.  History is what made this country.

In closing I believe that Racism will always be around in the US because of the large diversity of people and beliefs that we have, however I also believe that if some people and groups would just stop talking about it then our Country would not be so divided and obtaining equality for all people would be much easier. 

Fortunately slavery does not exist in our Country today and if it is discovered it is prosecuted.  However in our world today there are over 40 million people who are enslaved.  We as a Country do not appreciate our freedom nor do we talk about the millions that are enslaved throughout other parts of the world and where those people are enslaved. That needs to be reported.

Tommy Long

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

No they shouldn’t be removed. History is a great teacher. A wise man said, “fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice shame on me!” These should stay in remembrance of that time in our nation’s history. One monument in our county commemorates the end of the civil war, that’s a good thing. The other, the people who died in it. The majority of the casualties here never once owned slaves.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

My initial reaction is no The civil war was the civil war. It was 155 years ago ! North Carolina seceded and took Haywood into the war on the confederate side. It’s just the facts. How long are we going to dig up old bones in the graveyard?

Everybody today knows slavery is wrong. The Union won the war. Abraham Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation on 9/22/1862 freed 3.5 million slaves! It was arguably the greatest act for racial equality in our nations history.

The Confederacy was doomed. It created the basis for continued freedoms and rights of minorities down through our history unto this day. In his Gettysburg address on 11/19/1863 Lincoln standing where thousands of soldiers were buried said “ these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom”.

Long before Lincoln became President he fought against slavery. He was vocal that every man was created equal in the sight of God. He was right then and still is today!

The basis of Lincoln’s belief system was rooted in Almighty God, the creator of all men. Today like then one truth remains, God hasn’t changed. He loves all people.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I wasn’t aware of this. If it is true, it is troubling because local control is always best. I voted to give local control to our local school board to set our school calendar. We know our weather conditions here better than those in Raleigh and our school board knows what’s best for Haywood County’s schools. We live in the mountains not Raleigh.

Whats best for Raleigh may not work in Haywood. This sounds like a heavy hand over our people. My feeling is I don’t like the sound of it. It sets precedent. What’s next?

Mark Pless

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

Historical accounts of events should never be removed from public view. Taking down any monument is not going to change history. If this continues what is next removal of the Civil Ear in print form as well. When a government body censors any topic, event or in this case monument that government body is violating the rights given to us by the Constitution. We need to be very careful during this time of unrest. Just because a group of people get loud and threaten public action does not pressure me to take away the rights of others.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

Unless someone has been living on a deserted island for their entire life slavery is known to them. Having a monument expressing that fact may not be necessary. The same thing pertains to discrimination. I personally feel a monument honoring the persons who lived through those times would be okay. I believe a better choice would be searching history to find someone who aided slaves or stood up for rights even if it meant their death would be a better choice. I think telling someone’s story of how they made a difference with their actions would be remembered far long than just making a statement about either slavery or discrimination.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I am not familiar with this but as long as the legislature or governor have the legal basis to do this I must follow their orders until a court of law rules otherwise. That is due to my oath of office.

Brandon Rogers

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

I am not in favor of removing these monuments because they were placed to remember those veterans who lost their lives during a war and help us remember a part of history.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

I would be ok with this IF it was similar to other monuments that we currently have that remind us of war veterans who fought and died who are recogonized by the government as veterans.

  1. What are your feelings on the state commission appointed by the Governor (the NC Historical Commission) being empowered to tell counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I am a big supporter of having local control on all issues and do not support decisions for our county coming from the state or federal level.

 

Waynesville aldermen

Chuck Dickson

There are two monuments to the Civil War inside the Waynesville town limits. One is on public land at our historic county courthouse, while the other is on private property and owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. These installations elevate and glorify the memory of the Confederate soldiers who fought to secede from the United States and to preserve the institution of slavery. They can only be reminders to black Americans of the pain of racism – before, during and after the Civil War.

While the Town of Waynesville has no ability to modify or alter the monument on private property, I would like to see it not only honor the Confederate who fired the last shot, but to also honor the last Union soldier to die in battle east of the Mississippi. As to the monument at the courthouse, it is time to repurpose the monument to not only honor Confederate veterans, but to also honor Union soldiers from Haywood County who fought and died to preserve the United States and to end the institution of slavery.

According to North Carolina General Statutes, the North Carolina Historical Commission oversees monuments owned by the State of North Carolina. They do not have jurisdiction over our local monuments. Another state statute forbids relocating “objects of remembrance,” which include monuments, memorials or plaques, placed on public property -- except in very limited circumstances that do not apply here. However, this same statute does allow a local government to alter an “object of remembrance” by adding explanatory plaques, situating other objects around it, or re-purposing the monument. This could be done with the Confederate memorial on the county courthouse lawn.

Neither the Town of Waynesville nor Haywood County can remove the courthouse monument as it would violate State Law. I could not support such an effort. I would support changing the law.

Jon Feichter

As a result of the nationwide protests in response to the killing of yet another unarmed African American man at the hands of the police, many are once again demanding the removal of Confederate monuments from our public places. In this moment of tremendous upheaval, when it seems we are asking ourselves who we want to be as a country, I cannot think of a better time to have this conversation.

On one side of the divide are those who contend the monuments are not inherently racist and wanting to leave them in place does not make them racists. I agree. I personally know many individuals that are opposed to removal and I do not believe their opposition is anything other than an expression of Southern pride and reverence for their ancestors.

On the other side, many view the monuments as symbols of oppression. Members of Waynesville’s African American community must come face-to-face with a memorial honoring Confederate soldiers every time they come to Downtown. Just as those who favor keeping the monuments are able to celebrate their Southern heritage and honor long lost family members, shouldn’t our black friends and neighbors be able to enjoy our public spaces without being reminded of a time when their ancestors were brutalized and enslaved? I say they should.

It is my view, therefore, that if we are to bridge this divide and finally begin the work of forming a more perfect union for all citizens, the monuments should be moved from our public spaces to more appropriate venues like museums and cemeteries. We should not seek to erase this history but confront it and learn from it lest we repeat it.

One thing must be made clear, however. Removal of the monuments should not be left to the whims of groups of protestors. Rather, the process should be thoughtfully and deliberately carried out and when and how to do so is for the citizens of the municipalities where they are located—in consultation with NC Historical Commission if desired—to decide.

For so many of us, these past few weeks have been a painful reminder that we are a long way away from equal justice under the law for all Americans. Although the question of whether to remove these monuments is an important one, answering it will be for naught unless we address the reasons why they were constructed and allowed to remain there in the first place. If we do that, George Floyd’s death will have not been in vain.

Anthony Sutton

I feel that I need to do more research on the legal and human issues in order to make a sound and thoughtful statement. To heal racism will require community involvement to determine the best way to create open engagement and healing within the community. There are not simple solutions to these issues; nor will they be solved by one article or rally. To heal will require education, engagement and commitment within the community as a whole.

 

Jackson County commissioners

Brian McMahan

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Jackson County? Why or why not?

No, I do not believe that we should remove the confederate statue/monument at the Jackson County Library complex, it is an historical component of that property. As a community our focus needs to be on lifting people up, not tearing things done. It is easy to focus on symbols and inanimate objects, we however, need to focus on helping change peoples hearts and minds. Learning to understand our differences and the issues that divide us and find ways that we can come together and live in harmony, is a great first step, but a giant one at that. We have far more in common than we have that divides us.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

Yes, I am in favor of using the monument as a teaching tool to educate current and future generations about where we came from and help guide us to where we need to be. I am definitely in favor of adding other monuments that recognize other people/events in our history. History has its ugly moments, that hopefully we can learn from, so that we can truly make those moment history and not current reality.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

Unfortunately in NC, local governments are strictly regulated by the State Government. There are times that this creates problems. A “cookie cutter” approach does not work all across the state and in every community. Local autonomy has a benefit of making sure that local communities are able to take actions that best represent and benefit their citizens.

Ron Mau

I have been made aware of both a petition to remove the statue and to keep the statue. These petitions provide a peaceful way for citizens to come together and present a common view on a given issue en masse.

In this case there are passionate views on each side of the conversation. I have heard from people who wish to take the statue down. I have heard from people who wish to keep the statue as is with no changes. I have heard from people who wish to add additional historical information to that area to tell the entire story. I have had suggestions of creating a monument to Jackson County citizens who have given their lives in all U.S. conflicts. Some of these options would require funding.

Government often moves slowly and when a final decision is made the last question is: "How will that be paid for?" We are in the budget planning process and I plan on requesting an initial allocation of $50,000 to begin the process of considering potential solutions in a safe and rational manner and having funds available for implementation of a solution.

[Mau did indeed request the $50,000 after this comment was received.]

Gayle Woody

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Jackson County? Why or why not?

I would like to see a task force formed with a very specific mandated action and time deadline, led by our Board Chairman, Brian McMahan. This would be made up of long time residents of Jackson County. Black citizens, Sons of the Confederacy members, the Historical Society, and others as identified. These individuals would decide on a path forward, which answers question #2. Commissioner McMahan has deep family roots in this community, is a student of history, loves this community, and is respectful of ALL citizens. He leads by example. His leadership is essential at this time.

I represent ALL the citizens of Jackson County and their voices should be heard, if shared respectfully, whether I agree with them or not. That is why I am suggesting the task force so the divergent voices can be heard. I believe the time to do something about the monument is now. It has become a flashpoint for controversy and a safety issue. ALL citizens and visitors to Jackson County need to feel safe and RESPECTED here. I have two family members who work at the Jackson County Public Library and one told me patrons are scared to come. That is not acceptable in Jackson County.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

Some of the suggestions offered by citizens include

  1. Adding a monument honoring a black citizen with context
  2. Adding an explanation, additional context on the Confederacy and presenting the story of a path to reconciliation (which we are still on)
  3. A statue of a Cherokee elder, whose presence was here long before white settlers, our communities' history and heritage
  4. Removal and no replacement.
  5. Removal and something representing a timeline of our county history from Native Cherokee to now.

I would favor the solution a task force decides is the best resolution after hearing many voices.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I feel the state commission formed by then-Governor McCrory was a political move which goes contrary to the often touted goal of Republicans to decentralize government. This move was the opposite. I do believe communities should have authority locally over their monuments.

Sylva commissioners

David Nestler

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Jackson County? Why or why not?

- additional note: I understand the monuments at the library are on county property, and that it’s not your call as to what happens to it, however, it is smack dab in the middle of YOUR town, so “that’s not our call” is not a valid answer here. I’m asking if you think it should stay, or it should go. 

​I think it is long past time that this statue gets relocated.  There should always be memorials to victims of any war; however, the statue on top of the courthouse steps is not a memorial.  It is a monument.  Memorials are somber reminders of history and that is an appropriate way to approach the topic of a civil war.  Monuments, on the other hand, are put on high pedestals to glorify something and that is not how this part of history should be remembered.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

​No, I would not be ok with this.  The overpowering context here is that the statue is placed in the most prominent location in town and no plaque is going to counter that effectively.  Also note that adding a plaque is not easily allowed either under the general statute that limits its removal because it is an alteration ("shall not be removed, relocated, or altered in any way...").

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

​The state has been continually stripping authority from municipal and local governments for a long time.  Your local leadership is who is supposed to defend and stand up for the diversity we value so much in our community and this takes away our authority to do that.  This is a debate for the people of Jackson County to have about what is healthy moving forward for our community.  That state should not have the authority to tell us we need their permission to resolve that debate.

Greg McPherson

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Jackson County? Why or why not?

These monuments that stretch across the vanquished south are propaganda for an antiquated mindset and should be removed. This tin soldier is as hollow as the Jim Crow ideas he represents.

Further, the soldier only represents a portion of the people who fought from JacksonCo. The argument is that we are ignoring history yet, where is the memorial to the soldiers from here who fought for the union? The Cherokee?

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

We should do away with this type of memorial on public property. I would prefer that maybe we put a second fountain there to compliment the fountain below and make the sight of the old justice building even more stunning. Another idea is if we have to have something there we should pay tribute to the mothers, that for as long as we have been a country have been sending their children to war.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I would welcome any guidance as to the correct and permitted way to move forward with the removal. This needs to be done in the right way without violence and it needs a place to go to put it in its proper context and away from the tourist cameras: the soldier is not only offensive, It is also bad for business.

Macon County commissioners

Karl Gillespie

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Macon County? No Why or why not?

It is my understanding that this monument was dedicated on September 30, 1909.  There are seven units memorialized on this monument.  These monuments are not to glorify any wrongs that have been done, they represent part of the history of the United States of America. 

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

Placement of signage at any historical monument would be helpful.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I do not think this will be of any benefit.  Next will the state determine what monuments are acceptable?

 

Franklin council members

Bob Scott (mayor)

I am a very liberal mayor but I will do everything to keep our statue in place.  I see our statue not so much as a Confederate monument but as a statement to the poor men (and women) who have had to fight all wars.  It represents the average, not rich, people who have done their duty. It does not glorify any one individual.  If anything, it honors a composite person. The average joe who had to fight a rich man’s war not knowing for sure what they were fighting for.  

The statue in Franklin is over 100 years old and as far as I am concerned it is now a historical site.  I cannot see any reason to remove it.  I have no objection to placing anything which explains the horror of slavery and discrimination near the statue.  

I feel it is up to the Town Council, not the state to decide the fate of statues and historical sites.  Be glad to welcome their advice, but the final decision is a local one.

I am in no way advocating removal of that monument.  It has been the center of town for 100 plus years and I feel that everyone I have talked with feels the same way.  It has never been an issue.  Why make it one now?  It is not an overt glorification of the Confederacy.  

I know many liberals and conservatives who agree on leaving it where it is and how it is.

You can bet that Silent Sam, on top of the monument, probably never owned any slave.  He was probably a poor dirt farmer.

Not only that, but I have been told the statue was made in the North and there are dozens of small towns which either bought them or had them donated.

 

State legislators

Rep. Kevin Corbin

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

No I do not. Slavery and discrimination are despicable and should have never happened, but they did. We cannot erase history, only learn from it.

(When I was in grade school, I heard my mother crying one evening that she was going to be fired from her county job because my dad was active in the Republican party. She was eventually NOT fired but harassed, bullied, and had her job threatened. Back then you pretty much had to be a democrat to have a State or County job. That is just the facts. It is not pretty or politically correct to say that but it’s just the way it was in most of Western NC. My family lived it. Pictures of a couple of those gentlemen serving as county commissioners back then are still hanging on the Courthouse Hall. When I see them, I am reminded of that time for our family and frankly I’m angered and frustrated that it was that way. What it does however, is remind me that I NEVER want to be that way and hold someone’s political leanings against them. I am reminded that bigotry and discrimination are an unfortunate part of the human condition. I just feel strongly that I want no part of it.)

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

I believe each city or county government should have that choice depending on the particular monument or state. Certainly informative displays would be both helpful and educational. This would certainly help make it clear that things like slavery and discrimination are not glamorized or applauded by those local leaders. Education would help tell the whole story. Those should be local decisions made my local leaders.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

Again, I am a local government person. Decisions are best made closer to home. Local governments should be making those decisions. Hometown folks have no way to really get input to NC Historical Commission nor does the Historical Commission answer to the local people.

Sen. Jim Davis

No. I think its part of history, and so many of these removal advocates are not considering the complete history. Our history is complex, not simple, I think if we forget it we’re doomed to repeat it. Slavery was a blight and a wrong, but right now arguments are being driven by emotion, not reason.

I’d have no problem with contextualizing the monuments. I’d leave that up to local communities.

I was a primary sponsor of the 2015 law. The genesis of this law had to do with the Secretary of State not sharing info with the Department of Cultural Resources. I signed on to the bill because I thought important we remember these things with historical significance. Civil war and slavery had nothing to do with this. It passed the Senate 49 to zero. It’s taken on a life of its own since then.

So long as we preserve the historical significance, I’ve got no problem with that. I think a local referendum. Not a town board or a county board, but a countywide referendum. Let the people decide.

Rep. Joe Sam Queen

I’ve not heard of any request from my constituents in Haywood, Jackson or Swain regarding removing any of our public monuments. To the extent it does come up, citizens generally want a civic culture and life that respects and appreciations our region’s unique history and especially respects and appreciates our veterans of every war.

Just last July Fourth, I was part of dedicating Earl Lanning’s wonderful bronze Militia Rifleman, commemorating the Revolutionary War’s Militia of the Western Frontier. It was a proud, patriotic addition to our region’s commemorative monuments. I’m confident that a vibrant civic life will continue this tradition.

I do recognize History is complex and sometimes the addition of commentary and narrative that give context to these monuments is helpful. And if particular need arises the NC Historic Commission can be very helpful in advising and giving guidance.

But what I am hearing is a strong voice that supports a deeper and richer community dialogue around justice and opportunity for all. Clearly there is much work to do collectively towards forming a more perfect union and establishing justice. Our monuments are not the problem.

Rather, recent protests have focused on the iniquities and inadequacies of our criminal justice system that need our attention. Recently, the courts have handed down the Leandro case that highlights the constitutional inequities and inadequacies of our educational system. The Legislature needs to respond.

This pandemic has also highlighted the inequities and inadequacies of our Healthcare system. This legislature must stop wasting $4 Billion of our tax dollars each year and expand Medicaid so that the most vulnerable of our citizens can have healthcare.

Again, in the midst of this pandemic we see how essential access to high speed internet is to everyone for everything! Whether you are a student, a worker, a business, a patient, a utility or emergency management, you need connection! This is another real inequity and inadequacy we must fix.

And obviously as we move through this pandemic and restore our economy, it needs to work for everyone. We need to respect workers’ rights across the board, we will need lots of new jobs at fair wages and equal pay for equal work everywhere. This is what I’m hearing. I’m engaging in this very productive dialogue and will be working for positive change.

 

Candidates

Mike Clampitt (House District 119, vs. Rep. Joe Sam Queen)

My posture has not changed [since being asked in 2017], and there are a lot of what if’s. Cooler heads are gonna have to prevail across the board before any decisions are made. I can honestly say I don’t know where it’s gonna go. I’m supportive of the 2015 law.

Alan Jones (House District 118, vs. Mark Pless)

I understand the importance of local history and culture to the folks of Western North Carolina, but I also understand the systemic racism that was built into our culture in our history. 

I support the role that local government should have in determining what is best for their communities and counties.

I do not condone the destruction of monuments, buildings, or documents with historical relevance and context. We have to understand our history in order to prevent us from repeating it.

I can see how these Confederate monuments are intimidating to communities of color. I condemn all forms of racism and I am in favor of equality for all. 

While we are talking about relocation or removal of these monuments we must not forget about the issues in the General Assembly that are hurting black communities and other communities of color. I'm talking about living wage jobs, Medicaid expansion, investing in public education in all communities. A living wage should be determined by whether or not a parent makes enough money to provide for their family and put food on the table. The fact is Western North Carolina is hurting from bad policy decisions that put us here and I intend to be a part of fixing that.

Susan Landis (Senate District 50, vs. Kevin Corbin)

Regarding the confederate monuments, I do not live in Buncombe county, so I can't address those specifically, but I can share my opinion about the monuments in general. I was born in Chattanooga, TN and lived there for the majority of my life. It was the setting for the battle of Missionary Ridge and another at Chickamauga, GA during the Civil War. The evidence of those battles is still there in monuments, old cannons and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The route to popular tourist attractions such as Ruby Falls and Rock City are punctuated by monuments and cannons. The very tip of Lookout Mtn. contains a small park full of monuments commemorating the war. I have personally known people who had cannons in their front yards that were maintained by the national park. I'm explaining this to say that for most of my life, I've been surrounded by reminders of the Civil War. Even my high school in Chattanooga had larger than life size sculptures of Robert E. Lee and General Grant in the lobby of the auditorium. They became a favorite hiding place for students to hide their chewing gum before they entered the auditorium.

I think removing the statues across the south from courthouses, city parks, or other municipal sites, is an excellent idea, but not to erase history. The history, good or bad, right or wrong is part of our country, too. I would prefer to see monuments that are deemed worthy in a historical sense, be moved to a national military park. If a particular physical site is historically noteworthy, a plaque explaining what happened on that site might be appropriate. The danger in that is that the sites often marked do not include black history, or native American history, or include events such as lynchings or murders.

I would prefer to see these monuments moved by the city, or county or state officials after some deliberation on their part as to the disposition. Having a NC Historical Commission seems like a great resource, although I am not familiar with their activities or past decisions. I would rather see monuments removed by a legal, official means than be toppled during a protest, but I don't know if there is a way to petition to have those monuments removed. I understand the frustration and fury of people who want to rid themselves of the constant reminders of oppression and slavery.

History is complicated and events occur in a context of time, and place and social movements. What is going on now is also a part of that history of the Civil War and it seems like a large percentage of people agree that it's time to end the glorification of a terrible time in the past. Moving the monuments is a symbol of that change and one I welcome.

Leah Hampton (Haywood County commission vs. Kevin Ensley/Brandon Rogers)

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

I have a degree in American history, I come from a proud military family, and I understand many people feel emotionally attached to these monuments. But it's time, y'all. The objective fact is, most Confederate displays memorialize treason and the fight to preserve slavery. More importantly, many of our neighbors find these monuments disturbing and even threatening. At the very least, these monuments need context and appropriate historical framing. For older, genuinely historical monuments, I support moving them to a museum or other location where they can be viewed in context, per Governor Cooper's recommendation. Newer displays of Confederate sympathizing, such as modern flags and the like, which are specifically used for political reasons or just to intimidate people, should be removed and destroyed.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

I am open to this option for our county courthouse marker (which is an anonymous plaque for all dead soldiers), but otherwise I think Confederate monuments should be moved to a museum, as Governor Cooper has requested. This can be done respectfully, and in a way that educates people about the brutality of the Civil War. For example, at the Briscoe Center for American History in Texas, a well-known Confederate statue is now part of a fascinating permanent exhibit. In many eastern European cities, old Soviet monuments have been moved and placed in museum exhibits about Stalinist oppression.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

Generally I'm not in favor of bigger governments telling smaller, local governments what to do. I did not support former governor Pat McCrory's decision to sign the 2015 bill. He restricted what we can do with our own artifacts here in Waynesville. I think if citizens decide together that they want to remove or alter something in their community, that's their business. The only exception would be if the monument is on state or federal park lands (such as the Confederate Forest in our county), in which case we should consult with the appropriate body. I do agree with Governor Cooper's request that monuments be moved to museums, and I think that's a good faith effort on his part to find a compromise. Cooper is not dictating to local governments the way McCrory did.

David Young (Haywood County commission vs. Kevin Ensley/Brandon Rogers)

  1. In light of the current state of protest across this country, do you think it’s time to remove these monuments in Haywood County? Why or why not?

I believe it's time to remove these “monuments,” from public lands regardless of the current protests. It was time ten years ago, it was time fifty years ago. They never should have been erected in the first place.

  1. Some across the country have suggested that Confederate monuments remain, but also feature some other sort of monument or explanation putting slavery and discrimination into context. For example, the marker at the county courthouse could see an additional monument placed next to it, or some signage presenting the other side of the story. Would you favor this?

No. There are debates that are worthy of the courthouse lawn. The debate over whether slavery and treason are wrong isn't one of them.

  1. What are your feelings on the state law that tells counties and municipalities what to do with their monuments?

I feel like it was a cynical end-run around local control. Since the Republicans in Raleigh couldn't win the argument on merit, they stripped people of the right to decide what's best for their own communities.

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