Saturday, July 11, 2020
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Cookeville Goes Administrative On Symbols, Signage

The Cookeville City Council will not consider resolutions about confederate symbols on city property or monuments at the city cemetery.

Both issues will likely be pursued through administrative means based on council directives to the City Manager.

At Monday’s council work session, City Manager James Mills said he could enforce a policy that only a Tennessee state flag, an American flag or a reference to the City of Cookeville could be used on any city-owned property such as a locker, trailer or piece of equipment.

“I think that’s already addressed in our policies and personnel procedures manual,” Mills said. “We could look at doing some clarification on what can or what cannot be displayed on city property.”

Mills said he has met with every department head, asking every leader to make sure no confederate flags or symbols were present on city-owned property or equipment.

“We have no instance of the confederate flag being displayed that I’m aware of or the department’s aware of on any city equipment,” Mills said.

Council Member Mark Miller’s second resolution concerned signage at Cookeville City Cemetery to ensure that all understand the city does not own the Confederate monument there. Miller’s resolution sought to reaffirm the city’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. Mills said signage could also be installed at the cemetery that all monuments and headstones are privately owned.

“A disclaimer that we have no control or no responsibility for the verbiage on any headstone or monument displayed in the city cemetery,” Mills said.

Mayor Ricky Shelton said a 12×12 sign could be placed at the entrances to the cemetery that said all monuments and headstones are privately-owned.

“That takes care of the whole thing, which could have been done administratively anyway if we had just had a conversation,” Shelton said.

Miller said he believes the monument at the city cemetery violates the agreement between the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the city because no one is interned there. He told council members he wanted people to understand that the city does not own that.

Shelton said a discussion of the issue would have been better than crafting a resolution. Shelton said the resolutions created a perception of a problem that did not exist.

“The language said ‘instruct the city manager to remove confederate flags or images of confederate flags from city-owned property’ which implies that we have those things on city-owned property and that’s not the case,” Shelton said. “I’ve lived here 57 years, been in government 14 years, and I’ve never seen one.”

Council Member Eric Walker said he worried that city employees would feel like they were being singled out when there was not an issue.

Mills said he spoke with Miller on both issues as well as other members of the council. He told council members they could discuss the issue further Thursday night or provide him more specific directives.

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