COVINGTON, Ga. - The confederate monument on the Covington square was the main topic of discussion during a three-hour town hall meeting hosted by the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Monday evening.
Questions were raised about the monument itself, the lack of other historic markers in the community and whether removing or moving the statue is an option. While the commissioners did not reveal any definitive answers about the future of the monument, they all seemed to agree that the county is missing the mark on telling its history.
Guest Historian Karcheik Sims-Alvarado said it is up to the community to tell Newton County’s history in its totality.
“Tonight we’re going to make it right,” she said, encouraging the community to be on the right side of history.
Newton County Chairman Marcello Banes challenged those in attendance to ask questions and gave the commissioners the opportunity to answer in an allotted time.
‘Weave our county’s history into a tapestry of stories’
District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards spoke about his family history during the civil war, calling his story one of the many threads that makes up the story of Newton County. The theme of weaving those threads continued throughout the night as commissioners and citizens shared their stories and opinions about how history is represented locally.
“As we move forward, how do we move with intentionality and weave our county’s history into a tapestry of stories that is totally inclusive and representative of our entire citizenry so that our future is bright and productive?” Rev. Avis Williams said.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said it is up to Newton County to look at the “thorough history” that can be told on the square. Currently, there is an informational marker on one corner of the square. She brought up the idea of adding one to every corner to tell the whole story.
Turning dialogue into movements
“We’re on the verge of dividing this community in a bad way,” Banes said. “There’s some people who don’t even care about that, but I do and I’m not going to let that happen.
“Every meeting is not going to be about black and white, I’m not going to listen to that. In four years you can vote me out and I’ll go home and then you can come up and talk about black and white all you want, but for these next four years we’re going to get stuff done.
“It’s not going to be at every meeting we come up talk about black folk, white folk; I’m tired of that. I’m going to tell you what we’re about to do: We’re about to have citizen’s comments at all the meetings about agenda items only if this don’t stop. “
Banes said there are several other things the commissioners are working on right now outside of the statue.
“Newton County has got to move forward,” he said. “We’re not fixing to go backwards, not in these four years; we’re not.
“Nobody’s concerned about the debt we’ve got to deal with, nobody’s concerned about getting the county turned around, but we can fill the room when it’s a black and white issue and we’re going to stop that.”
Banes said if three commissioners ask him to add the monument to the agenda, he will add it. District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson volunteered to be one of those commissioners and encouraged other commissioners to do the same.
“It’s our job,” he said. “They (the residents of Newton County) elect us to make tough decisions. They elect us to listen to our constituents and to the best of our ability make a decision. I’m at that point.
“Just do what you’re elected to do. Make tough decisions.”
Banes said he was pleased with how the town hall meeting turned out.
“I feel like the town hall was a great success,” he said. “Hopefully we can start doing more town halls in the future. Maybe we can one a quarter.”