Mayor Gillum Not Attending 2015 Chamber Conference in Walton County

Andrew Gillum
Posted at 4:25 PM, Aug 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-06 12:45:04-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) - Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says he will not be attending the 2015 Chamber Conference in Walton County because of the decision by Walton County Officials to fly the Confederate Flag at its courthouse.

In the letter released Thursday, Mayor Gillum says he respects and appreciates the Chamber's decision to not hold the 2016 Conference in Walton County, but despite this, he will not be attending this year's conference.

You can read the full letter below:

"First, I would like to express my deepest respect and appreciation to the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce for their courageous step to relocate next summer's conference away from Walton County in response to Walton County's actions to raise the Confederate flag. There is no daylight between how I and the Chamber feel about the actions taken by the Walton County Commission. With the Chamber's decision to conclude their contractual obligation unless Walton County removed the flag, the Chamber signaled that principles matter.

Secondly, I am not going to Walton County.

While the Chamber of Commerce had a business and logistical decision to make with regard to this years' conference, in addition to these concerns, my decision emanates from several additional factors. I serve as the mayor of Florida's Capital City. I am a black man, husband and father to two precious children, who need to look up to their father as an example of moral and principled leadership. I am still grieving over my friend and colleague, Rev. Clementa Pinckney of South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church, having been murdered under the premise of Confederate ideology. I learned from my ancestors at a very early age that if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Admittedly, I did not reach my decision not to go to Walton County without considerable thought and heartfelt contemplation. How would it be perceived if the mayor didn't attend an important conference on economic development? Would people judge me to be careless about my position? Would people think that I am punishing a group who didn't seek out this unfortunate situation? Would I appear too divisive?

These very questions have led me to my decision. Simply put, my actions as mayor of Tallahassee matter. It matters that I demonstrate that, as an All-America City, we stand firmly against discrimination and hatred in whatever form it comes. That as a chief spokesperson for a caring community that works hard to embrace its diversity, I could not in good conscience step foot in a County in which elected leaders deal so insensitively with the potential negative impact their decisions have on all its citizens.

Tallahassee did not ask for this unfortunate situation. We do not fly the confederate flag in public spaces. It was the Walton County Commission that decided to vote, in 2015, to resurrect the Confederate flag in front of its courthouse. Because Walton County chose not to consider the deep pain that America is experiencing over the Confederate flag, because they refuse to recognize the dignity and humanity in every person who lives in and visits their community, and because they chose to push their community backwards rather than moving them forward, Tallahassee is inadvertently relegated to stand in the gap of their derision.

As your mayor, I stand ready to address the economic and social challenges that confront our community. I look forward to working with my friends and colleagues at the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce to participate in conversations that will move Tallahassee forward. I will be here when the retreat ends to greet our neighbors and work with the Chamber leadership and others to deal with our economic and business concerns, but as the Mayor of one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in America, I will not go to Walton County while the Confederate flag--a symbol of deep oppression and hatred--still flies."