Vote to remove Cordele’s Confederate monument fails

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor

The Cordele City Commission deadlocked 2-2 along racial lines Tuesday on a motion to tear down the controversial Confederate monument on the grounds of the Community Clubhouse.      Commissioner Royce Reeves made a motion to tear down the “private Confederate statue that sits on city property,” and was seconded by Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shepherd

“It’s not my intention to erase history,” Reeves said. “There is a place for everything, but there are some people that don’t agree with the history and that don’t want to remember that history. It’s offensive to them for that statue to sit there on that property — the community clubhouse. I am making a motion that we remove that statue from the community clubhouse and have no other statues placed that property.”

The motion was seconded by Beal-Shepherd.

Reeves said the reason he mentioned no other statues or monuments be placed on the property was because other minority groups might find them offensive.

Commission chair John Wiggins suggested the motion be tabled until the commissioners meet with the city attorney.
“He has some things he wants us to hear before we hold a vote,” Wiggins said. “He is our attorney and advisor and he wants to have an executive session at our next meeting so I would ask you to rescind our motion.”

Reeves responded that he was within his rights to offer the motion.

“A motion was made and seconded and I will not rescind the motion nor will I vote to table it,” Reeves said. “The longer we drag this thing out, the worser it’s going to get

Commissioner Wesley Rainey argued that state law did not allow for the statues to be taken down, but Reeves replied that the law was meant for statues owned by the city, but this statue was privately owned.

Rainey said the city attorney told him that if the statue was removed it would probably lead to a lawsuit.

Wiggins said he felt it would be best to listen to the attorney and not make a rash or uninformed decision about it.

“I think we should take the advice of our attorney, go into executive session and talk about this statue,” Wiggins said. “I’m not against removing it but I do want to do it the right way.”

Reeves refused to rescind the motion so Wiggins had no choice but to call for a vote.

Reeves and Beal-Shephard voted to remove it while Rainey and Commissioner Jeanie Bartee voted to keep it. By law if there is a tie vote, then the chairman must break the tie.

“Well, I guess you know how I am going to vote,” Wiggins said. “I am going to vote for what is best for the city of Cordele. My decision is to vote nay and go into executive session and listen to our attorney.”

Reeves was understandably unhappy with the vote and took to social media to condemn the process writing,

“In tonight’s meeting I made a motion to take the Confederate statue down from the community clubhouse which is on city property. My motion was seconded by commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard, which allowed my motion to stand.

Chairman john Wiggins called for a vote and Commissioner Sheppard (sp) and I voted to bring the statue down while commissioners Wesley Rainey and Jeanie Bartee voted to keep it up causing a two-way tie which would call for chairman Wiggins to vote to break the tie and he voted to keep the statue standing on taxpayer property.

“For all of you who supported me in taking the — in my opinion symbolic statue of racism — down we put up a good fight but like the Confederate soldiers we lost… for all of you who supported the statue standing as it is Congratulations on your victory I pray you all remember Chairman John Wiggins when his time comes up for re-election God know we will.”