DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — The Walton County Courthouse might have a new look after the second Tuesday in November.
After past disputes, the county will offer a referendum on a ballot in November to remove the Confederate flag from the courthouse. According to Louis Svehla, Walton County public information manager, the binding ballot referendum was unanimously approved by county commissioners and if in favor of the flag's removal, will go into effect immediately after the vote is certified.
"I will say that both sides are extremely passionate," Svehla said. "As far as fors and againsts, it depends on where you go and who you ask."
Svehla said that before July 2015, the Confederate battle flag flew at the courthouse, but after previous discussions between commissioners and the public — and in an attempt to compromise with residents on both sides of the issue — the flag was replaced with the seven star flag of the Confederacy.
"The onus behind that was the fact that there are a lot of people who believe that (the) battle flag is a symbol of racism, mostly due to the perpetuation of that flag being that symbol by so many different hate groups," Svehla said.
Some Walton County residents like Danny Glidewell, who is running for county commissioner, believe the flag is also a symbol of southern heritage.
"If you don't study history, you're doomed to repeat it," Glidewell said. "So, we need to study history and try to learn from our mistakes and it's important to make sure that our children know what's happening in the past."
However, other citizens like Mike Bowden, the co-chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Walton County, think supporting any form of the Confederate flag keeps racial prejudices alive.
"Studies have shown that the mere presence of a Confederate flag flying over a courthouse has an impact on the decisions of jurists who enter that courthouse," Bowden said on behalf of the Committee on justice, equality and fairness of Walton County. "We would remind those citizens (who oppose the flag's removal off of the basis of heritage) that the heritage is one of racial discrimination, white supremacy and support of slavery. The heritage of those oppressed is not represented."