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Monument vote delayed to January

January is the earliest Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors expects to make a final decision on the fate of the county’s Confederate monument.

In November, the board had voted to authorize county staff to open a dialogue with the town of Windsor regarding the possibility of relocating the statue to the town’s cemetery, which had been the No. 1 recommendation of the county’s monument task force should the board feel inclined to move it from the courthouse complex grounds where it’s stood for the past 115 years. County staff had planned to present the results of their negotiations with Windsor at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting, but the matter had been struck from the agenda as of Dec. 9.

Asked why the agenda had changed, Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the county was “still in discussions with the Town of Windsor.”

Robertson and County Administrator Randy Keaton have already met with Town Manager William Saunders to discuss the monument, but according to Mayor Glyn Willis, the holdup is now finding the time for a discussion among Town Council members. Windsor’s Town Council last met on Dec. 8, but the monument wasn’t on the agenda for that evening.

“It kind of got thrown to us,” Willis said. “We’ve got to be able to spend the time to work through it.”

Willis anticipates the Town Council taking up the matter in January. Assuming the Board of Supervisors and Town Council maintain their current meeting schedules for 2021, that puts the Town Council’s monument discussion on Jan. 12 and the Board of Supervisors’ discussion on Jan. 21.

Per a change in state law that took effect July 1, localities may remove, relocate, cover or contextualize any Confederate monuments they own. Using this authority, a number of Hampton Roads localities have voted to take their Confederate monuments down. Those who want Isle of Wight’s monument moved from the seat of the county’s government argue the statue glorifies the Confederacy and white supremacy, while those who wish it to stay argue removing it would be tantamount to erasing history.

Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler, who’s been calling for the monument’s removal since 2017, said she understands the Board of Supervisors is “playing it safe and would prefer knowing that Windsor Town Council is on board if they vote to remove the monument.” That said, “We would have preferred them to go ahead and vote,” she added. “And if the vote is to relocate the monument, they have enough locations that were submitted by the task force to move down the list. It is still our hope that the Board of Supervisors will make the decision on the right side of justice.”

The board’s vote in November to authorize talks with Windsor also authorized county staff to begin negotiations with monument task force member Volpe Boykin, who had offered to grant an easement on land he owns in the village of Walters for the monument, provided a non-governmental organization agrees to maintain the statue at that site in perpetuity. Since the November vote, Boykin said he has no new information on the logistics involved in moving the monument to his property but told the paper it likely wouldn’t take long to do what is “needed for that to happen” should the board choose that option.