A committee tasked with determining the fate of a Confederate war monument in downtown Brunswick has a lot of work to do and not much time to accomplish it.
Brunswick City Commissioner Vincent Williams, chair of the committee, asked the nine-member committee at its first meeting Monday to meet once a week with the goal of coming up with a recommendation he can present to the other city commissioners by the middle of September.
“I want to see the direction the committee wants to go,” Williams told committee members during its first meeting Monday.
Williams said the goal of the first meeting was to determine the subjects for discussion to help the committee reach a decision.
City Attorney Brian Corry told committee members they were subject to the Georgia open records and meetings acts.
“The law tries to make sure we are as transparent as humanly possible,” he said.
But Williams said that doesn’t mean they have to answer questions.
“Don’t talk to the media,” he said. “Let’s keep things in house until we’re ready to go public. I think everyone knows what we’re talking about.”
Committee member Chris Wilhelm, associate professor at the College of Coastal Georgia, said it is important to look at the history of the monument, which has stood in Hanover Square since 1902, and the context of why it was erected.
“We need to understand the viewpoint before we can move further,” he said.
Wilhelm said he has researched the monument’s history and offered to share it with committee members and the public.
Another committee member, John Richards, a lawyer and pastor, said it’s also important to research state and federal laws to determine exactly what they can legally do with the monument.
Former Brunswick Mayor Brad Brown said the committee has an opportunity to expand the community’s knowledge about the American Civil War.
“There are a lot of stories that haven’t been told publicly,” he said.
Hal Crowe, a life member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, expressed confidence a resolution can be reached.
“Brunswick is very unique in the cooperative spirit,” he said.
Other discussions included a possible in-person visit to Hanover Square to look at the monument and researching how other cities have dealt with Confederate monuments.
Before the committee makes a recommendation, Williams said there will be opportunities for public comment.
“I think we need to start doing our homework,” he said. “When we come back together, we can have a more firm agenda.”
The committee was formed after Mayor Cornell Harvey and other city commissioners said they received numerous calls asking that the monument be removed from Hanover Square.