EASTON – Talbot County Council President Corey Pack has approached the town of St. Michaels regarding the Talbot Boys statue in Easton and the controversy’s potential impact on tourism and economic development.
Mike Bibb, president of the St. Michaels town commission, said at the end of Wednesday’s meeting that Pack had reached out and asked to meet with town leaders about the Talbot Boys issue.
Bibb said Pack is requesting the meeting to try to build support for having the Talbot County Council revisit the Talbot Boys statue. The County Council voted 3-2 in August not to remove the statue which commemorates 84 local Confederate volunteers during the Civil War. The statue was erected in 1916.
“They’re trying to say there is going to be an economic impact,” Bibb said during the meeting referring to concerns the Confederate statue could impact tourism in the county.
St. Michaels commissioners are open to meeting with Pack and Cassandra Vanhooser, director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County.
Pack told The Star Democrat that Vanhooser is researching the potential economic and tourism impact the Talbot Boys controversy could have on Easton and St. Michaels.
Pack, a Republican, said that analysis is expected to be completed early next month. “She’s working on it,” said Pack who favors removing the Confederate statue from in front of the Talbot County Courthouse.
Pack said he has heard some economic worries about the ramifications of the statue remaining and the optics conveyed.
“I’m very concerned in today’s climate,” Pack said in an interview with The Star Democrat.
Vanhooser tells The Star Democrat her office has had calls from individuals both sides of the issue though finding hard data on issue is a challenge. She also has not heard officially from any major groups or businesses about the Talbot Boys issue.
“We’ve had calls from both sides of the issue. Most of what we know is anecdotal,” she said.
Vanhooser said she has heard from “Civil War buffs” who want the statue to remain for historical reasons.
Vanhooser said she continues to try to compile research and what other communities have seen on the issue but hard, comparable data is not easy to come by. “I’ve reached out to colleagues across the country looking for data,” she said.
The Mid-Shore region is home to plenty of Civil War and other history. Talbot County debuted a new outdoor exhibit earlier this month on Frederick Douglass on the Tuckahoe. A Douglass statue is also on the Talbot courthouse grounds. Vanhooser said her office is seeing interest in the new Douglass exhibit as well as Underground Railroad sites in the region.
A number of other cities and communities have removed Confederate and Christopher Columbus statues after pushes from progressive activists and protesters.
In St. Michaels, town commissioners said during Wednesday’s meeting they are willing to listen to a county presentation about the impacts. Tourism is a key industry in St. Michaels and Easton. Neither town has jurisdiction over the statue. A public vote on the fate of the Confederate monument could happen in 2022.
Bibb said part of the request from the Pack could be to see if St. Michaels would help petition for a new County Council vote on the Talbot Boys. Bibb said he also wants to know what would happen to the memorial if it is removed. “What are you going do with with. Who are you giving it to,” Bibb said.
St. Michaels Commissioner Jaime Windon said she’s also open to being briefed on the issue. Windon said she does want to hear about the historical and civil aspects of the issue.
Pack said there are no current plans to try to convene another vote on the Talbot Boys – unless there is a change of heart on the council.