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Victor Crist says ‘telling whole story’ could end Hillsborough Confederate monument controversy

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist has been a politician serving in elective office for more than 24 consecutive years, he also has something of a creative side.

As the president of an advertising agency he founded in college, Crist’s day job involves rebranding clients who might be suffering from a poor public image. That experience is why Crist thinks the citizens should pay attention to his plan to solve the brewing controversy over the idea of removing a Confederate monument in the county.

The Confederate Soldier’s Monument, which now sits outside of the County Courthouse, features the carvings of two soldiers, one representing the northern side preparing for war, and a soldier from the South looking downcast, returning back from the war.

While he believes that some Confederate monuments are distasteful and need to be altered, Crist said this isn’t one of them. So instead of removing the statue and putting it in storage, he wants to add more figures to the existing work “to tell the whole story — not just one side.”

His vision includes adding an additional statue of a “respectful” northern soldier coming home from the war, standing next to a new statue of a black man and woman holding their child.

“Tell the whole story from the turmoil that occurred from the Civil War and the pain that the South felt to the transition of today and the hope for tomorrow,” Crist said. “And by adding to this statute the black family looking to the hope of the future, we now complete the story and this monument becomes something more than just a tribute to the South and its fallen heroes, but to all of the fallen heroes and to the hope of the future of our country as a North and a South and all to people.”

A native of New Orleans who says he’s heard “an earful” of friends and relatives upset with Mayor Mitch Landrieu‘s decision to jettison four Confederate monuments over the past few months, Crist said his plan is a solution that he believes everybody can live with.

That remains to be seen.

“I think it’s wrong to erase history and I think it’s important that the story be told to our children about our past because this country grew from the Civil War,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “Both sides had to come together at the end of the civil war to a  new America, a better America, and that story has yet to have been told in our community here and throughout the South.”

The idea came to him last week, Crist said, a day after several citizens came before the board to denounce the idea of removing the statue. The next evening he contacted County Administrator Mike Merrill to request access to an artist to sit down with him to work on some renderings for his vision.

Crist said he’s presented his ideas to members of Save Southern Heritage, the group opposing Miller’s idea of moving the monument. Their initial reaction wasn’t one of acceptance (“they were prickly about it,” he explained) but once Crist explained the concept “they came on board.”

Commissioner Les Miller intends to introduce a proposal to remove the statue at the board’s next meeting later this month. He was hoping to have the Tampa History Museum Center agree to accept the monument if the board were to agree to a proposal to remove it, but officials with the History Center rejected the proposal Friday.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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