EASTON — After years of back and forth between locals and elected officials, the Talbot County Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 14, to relocate the controversial Talbot Boys statue from the county courthouse grounds to a historic Civil War battlefield in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
In a change of perspective, it was Republican council member Frank Divilio who introduced the resolution to move the statue to a Civil War battlefield in Virginia to the council Tuesday evening. Divilio previously voted to keep the statue in its current Easton location during the 3-2 council vote in August 2020.
Divilio’s resolution proposed relocating the Talbot Boys statue from the county courthouse lawn in Easton to the Cross Keys Battlefield, a private park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Once there, the statue will be placed under the care of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the region’s Civil War battlefields and other historic sites. The cost to move the statue will also come from a private fund, not the taxpayers of Talbot County.
Three out of the five council members voted in support of Divilio’s administrative resolution. Pete Lesher, the council’s vice president and lone Democratic member, joined with Republican council member Corey Pack to vote in support of the resolution to relocate the statue. Council president Chuck Callahan and Laura Price, both Republicans, voted against the measure.
Price also planned to introduce her own administrative resolution at the council meeting — a proposal to create a Civil War unity monument featuring the existing Talbot Boy and a newly constructed Union Boy on the same base. While the text of her resolution was read at the meeting, she declined to formally introduce it, instead saying that the public needed to have an opportunity to comment on it.
When introducing his resolution, Divilio addressed one of the common questions many residents had been asking him: why the change of heart? Initially, he wanted to let Talbot County residents decide what to do with the statue and put the question on the 2022 ballot.
“While I still feel this would’ve been the best for us, we can no longer delay resolution,” he said. “The Talbot Boys issue has divided our community for too long and has sidelined many other important things the county council and county government needs to address.”
Divilio also addressed why he chose to introduce his proposal through an administrative resolution, which does not allow public comment. After 18 months of public activism, he believes the council is “well-versed” in how the community feels on the Talbot Boys issue, so delaying the decision would do more harm than good.
“It’s time to make a decision and move forward,” he said. “Tonight, I might make some new friends, I might lose some old ones, and if you’re angry with me, that’s okay.”
Lesher commended Divilio for his resolution and work in securing a different location for the statue.
“This resolution will bring us closer to resolution,” Lesher said. “There is still much work to do to make Talbot County an equitable and just place for all to live and work.”
Pack also voiced his support for Divilio’s resolution.
“I’ve had the change of heart that you have apparently gone through as well, and it requires some deep soul searching, it requires a reflection upon self,” Pack said, referring to his vote to keep the statue on the courthouse grounds several years. “And you’re not going to make everybody happy in your office, I know that, but you have to do what you believe in your mind is the right thing to do.”
After delaying her own resolution, Price expressed her disapproval in Divilio’s decision to move forward with voting on his administrative resolution and asked him to hold off on it to allow for public feedback.
“For the same reason I did mine, I believe that this is wrong, and it’s not anything to do with my opinion,” she said, stressing the importance of the public hearing process.
Some members of the Move the Monument Coalition who packed the council meeting room shook their heads and chuckled in disapproval hearing Price’s comments. In response, Price called out those chuckling for disrespecting her and the other members of the council.
Similar to Price, Callahan said he would have loved for the public to have an opportunity to comment. He also asked Divilio to consider delaying the vote so the public could express their feelings, which Divilio respectfully declined.
The measure to relocate the Talbot Boys statue passed 3-2 just before 7:30 p.m.
Immediately after the vote, members of the Move the Monument Coalition in the meeting room began applauding. Cheers could be heard coming from those gathered outside of the courthouse.
Talbot County Assistant Public Defender Kisha Petticolas, one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit petitioning to remove the statue from the courthouse grounds, welcomed the council vote.
“I will just say that it is about time, and it is a victory for African Americans in Talbot County and for all who believe in diversity and equity and inclusion,” she said. “It is not equitable to have this on the courthouse lawn. This is not the end of the story with the statue.”
Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.