Following weeks of debate and seeking community feedback, the Williamson County Board of Commissioners voted 16-7 on Sept. 14 approving a resolution to accept a recommendation to remove the Confederate flag from the county seal.

The seal, which was adopted in 1968, has been the subject of debate in recent months as many residents have called for the removal of Confederate monuments in the area following the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black Americans while in police custody.

In July, following a petition signed by thousands of residents, the county board formed a task force to determine if the seal should be altered. The seal depicts the flag and cannon, a school house, a bible in a church window and farm animals. The task force only focused on the quadrant with the flag.

During the Sept. 14 meeting, members of the task force announced that they had unanimously voted to remove the flag from the seal.

The task force is headed by Williamson Inc. President and CEO Matt Largen. It also includes members from the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County as well as Black community leaders and business owners, Williamson County historian Rick Warwick and members of families who have lived in the county for at least three generations.

“The social and public interest section is hard to quantify, but what we did learn is that it doesn’t make the pain any less real that some longtime residents feel when they see our county flag,” Largen said. “To those residents who have lived here their entire life, have helped build this community and have raised a family here, the flag is not welcoming. It’s not inclusive but a symbol of oppression and is divisive because it has been used by groups like the Ku Klux Klan.”

Largen said the task force also found there could be financial impacts of keeping the seal. A number of local companies, including Mars Petcare, Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors, and Zeitlin Southeby’s International Realty included a letter to the commission calling for the removal of the seal in the task force report.

“Research concluded there is a risk to tourism and business recruitment and retention if the Confederate flag is left on the seal, which directly impacts the county budget especially since the task force and this issue has garnered so much media attention,” Largen said.

The report from the task force estimates it would cost the county approximately $27,300 to remove the seal from all county properties, and another $95,900 to replace the seal with a new one, should the county choose to do so.

However, this motion does not mean the seal will be changed right away.

Now that the resolution has been approved by the board, Williamson County Attorney Jeff Moseley said the county has authorized County Mayor Rogers Anderson to send an application to the Tennessee Historic Commission, asking for permission to alter the seal.

“The only reason the historical commission is involved at all is because the county seal is a piece of art as defined by the statute and contains a memorialization of what is referred to in the statute as ‘the war between the states,’” Moseley said.

Following the application, the THC will deliberate whether it is within their jurisdiction to allow the county to change the seal. Should the THC find that it is, it would require a two-third vote of approval to change. Following that approval, the matter would return to the county to determine how the seal would be altered, Moseley said.