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Sylva Rejects Jackson County Commissioners Planned ‘Sylva Sam’ Updates

Lilly Knoepp
'Sylva Sam' overlooks downtown Sylva.

Sylva Town Commissioners voted Thursday to reject plans to update the base of Jackson County’s Confederate monument.  ‘Sylva Sam’ sits outside the historic Jackson County courthouse, and county commissioners approved a plan to cover the Confederate Flag on the monument’s base and highlight its 1996 rededication to “veterans of all wars.” The phase, “Our Heroes of the Confederacy will also be covered.

Sylva Town Commissioners have wanted it removed since 2020, which they affirmed with a 3-2 vote again Thursday.  Commissioner Ben Guiney presented the resolution: 

“Jackson County Commissioners keep stating that they need to consider the entire county but the statue is disproportionately affecting our town more so than the entire county,” said Guiney.  The resolution continues to state that the prominence of the monument “implies that the town of Sylva supports the Confederate cause.”

Guiney voted in favor of the resolution along with Commissioners David Nestler and Greg McPherson.

“I think the language that the county came up with is nonsensical. An insurrectionist solider from a vanquished army now representing veterans of all wars makes absolutely no sense to me,” said McPherson.

Commissioners Mary Gelbaugh and Barbara Hamilton voted against the resolution.

“I represent a lot of our locals. They had relatives that were in that war. This was supposed to be a memorial not to the confederacy or the union. We had soldiers in our county who worked for both,” said Hamilton.

The monument is on county-owned land. Therefore, county commissioners have the final say on the matter. The budget for the amendments to the monument were approved in May.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.