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Tuesday in Commissioners Court: Monument committee takes shape; ambulance funding approved

County Judge Mary Horn on Tuesday appointed local activist Willie Hudspeth and former Denton City Council member Mike Cochran to serve on the county advisory committee for the Confederate monument on the downtown Square. 

Hudspeth has been asking for the monument's removal on and off for the past 17 years, and Horn previously said he would be her first appointment. She said Cochran, a known history buff, can help determine the historical context for the statue. 

"I've known [Cochran] for a long time, and I know him to be very much a historian. So I thought his expertise would be helpful," said Horn, who has asked the committee to prioritize updating the wording on the monument's nearby plaque.

Denton County Judge Mary Horn said she wants the advisory committee to specifically change the wording on the current plaque near the Confederate monument on the Square. DRC
Denton County Judge Mary Horn said she wants the advisory committee to specifically change the wording on the current plaque near the Confederate monument on the Square. 

Horn's appointments are the first official move for a committee designed to determine the fate of the highly contentious monument in downtown Denton. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the advisory committee last week after more than a month of heated public discussion on the statue. 

There are local residents and others mainly in the southern part of the country who think the Denton monument represents racism. Others believe tearing the monument down would be an attempt to erase history. 

Each commissioner will be able to appoint two members to the committee, but they weren't ready to share any names with the public Tuesday. 

Commissioners also adopted a general mission and rough guidelines for the committee. Drafted by Commissioner Ron Marchant, the guidelines include using county historical records and "other authoritative material" to get accurate historical context for the statue. 

Preservation and public education on the memorial — either through an updated plaque or historical markers — would be emphasized, according to the written guidelines. 

Commissioners agreed to have the committee appoint its own chairman. Horn said she hoped the chairman would regularly update her and commissioners on the committee's progress. They also agreed to appoint Peggy Riddle, director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, as a non-voting member. 

Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell, who pushed for the monument committee, said she hoped it wouldn't take longer than a month for members to come up with the decision. The committee will make a recommendation to commissioners, who can put the recommendation up for further votes or take action. Commissioners also will need approval from the Texas Historical Commission to make any changes to the monument or the plaque.

In other action, commissioners allocated $1.08 million for all ambulance service agencies in Denton County and $20,970 for computer equipment in the Denton County Jail Health Department. 

They also renewed the contract between nine area Tom Thumb grocery stores and the Denton County Tax Office. The office has established stations at each store that provide vehicle registration renewals for residents. The service makes it more accessible, said County Tax Assessor/Collector Michelle French. 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated who would choose the committee chairman. The committee will select their own chairman.