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Indigenous People’s Day no longer an IW paid holiday

Starting this year, Isle of Wight County will no longer offer the second Monday of October as a paid holiday.

The date, once known as Columbus Day, was officially renamed Indigenous People’s Day in Virginia in 2020. It originally celebrated Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, but now celebrates the resilience of Virginia’s tribal communities, reconciliation and healing.

This year, Indigenous People’s Day will fall on Oct. 11. According to County Administrator Randy Keaton, the elimination of the October holiday is needed to balance out the addition of Juneteenth, which Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state holiday in 2020 and Virginia’s General Assembly ratified as a paid holiday for government employees this year.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, marking the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of the Civil War’s end and of the Emancipation Proclamation that had made them free nearly two years earlier.

When Virginia did away with Lee-Jackson Day in 2020, swapping the celebration of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in favor of Election Day, “We basically just swapped holidays,” Keaton said. “But as we keep adding holidays, every time we’re closed, of course, that decreases the services to the citizens.”

Additional holidays also mean additional costs for the county in terms of employee paid time off for those given the holiday and others who are given compensatory paid time off for working a holiday.

“Columbus Day just seemed to be one of those days that, you know, the banks are closed and federal governments closed but a lot of places don’t realize it’s even a holiday,” Keaton said.

While Isle of Wight’s county offices will now be open Oct. 11, the county plans to offer its employees a flexible holiday that can be taken at any time, so long as they receive approval from their supervisor. According to Michelle Clark, the county’s director of human resources, the flexible vacation day will not roll over from year to year. It also won’t factor into an employee’s leave payout should that person end his or her employment with the county and have unused vacation days. It must also be taken in one eight-hour increment, not split into two or more half days off.

“If they are sentimentally attached to Columbus Day they can take it on Columbus Day or they can take it any time they so choose,” Clark said.

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors approved the amendment to the county’s holiday schedule unanimously June 10.