A committee charged with taking feedback on how to contextualize the Confederate monument in downtown Denton, with Denton County Judge Andy Eads at center, listens to a speaker during a public hearing Monday night at the Southwest Courthouse in Flower Mound.

FLOWER MOUND — Denton County Judge Andy Eads has no plans of turning back. It’s not like he ever considered it anyhow.

On Monday night, after the final of four listening meetings, Eads said he wished more residents had contributed at the meetings, so a committee could take feedback from the public on how best to contextualize the racism that led to the construction of the Confederate statue in downtown Denton in 1918.

There were some suggestions the committee will consider, but in a message that cannot be ignored, a prevailing suggestion from those who’ve decided to give feedback is to remove the statue from downtown and put it in a museum — a wish some still have despite the county government’s plan.

“We respect that, but the decision has already been made,” Eads said after the meeting at the Southwest Courthouse in Flower Mound.

In 2018, a 15-member committee recommended that the county not remove the statue but instead add context, an option some communities across the nation have taken while others have removed Confederate relics from public spaces.

The official plan — to “decry” slavery, add context to the racism that led to the statue’s arrival in 1918, add a monument to African American history in Denton County and turn on the once-segregated water fountains at the base of the statue — was recommended in January 2018 and went more than year without any action by Denton County officials until a new committee was formed in August.

Eads was placed on the newest committee, which hosted the four listening meetings. Denton County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell is on the new committee as well, along with John Baines, who, as chairman, steered the original committee to the unanimous decision for contextualization.

Eads and Baines have tried to fasten citizens’ attention to the original committee’s recommended plan. To start the third meeting, the one in Denton that had the most people attending, Baines read emphatically from the report, its contents outlining the path that ultimately led them to Monday night. Dawn Cobb, the county’s public relations director, passed out copies of the reports to the crowd of about two dozen people during that meeting.

“We’ve had a clear path forward for over a year, and we’re maintaining the course,” Eads said Monday.

In the months it took the county to take the recommendation and form the new committee, the public learned former County Judge Mary Horn — under whose charge the original committee was formed — quietly went behind the committee’s back and had the county’s historical commission apply for a Texas Historical Commission marker, which would have preserved the statue had it been successful.

The state rejected the application in January but not a word was said until June, when the Denton Record-Chronicle obtained and published the documents.

Shortly after, the county got rolling again and brought the current phase of its plan to action. The latest step was Monday’s meeting in Flower Mound, where about six members of the public showed up.

Eads said Monday the next step now that the listening meetings are over is to launch a nationwide search for an artist who will bring the context to life in the form of new additions to the Confederate statue. He said that work will begin in January.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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