COUNTY — The debate over the future of the Union County seal continued on Thursday when numerous residents took to the podium during a regular meeting of the Commissioner Board to weigh in and share their opinions.
The current seal, which depicts the shooting of a Revolutionary War-era woman named Hannah Caldwell, is set to be replaced with one of two options — a digitized image of the county courthouse, or a four-quadrant design comprised of a portrait of Mrs. Caldwell, parklands, a smaller image of the courthouse and various modes of transportation.
And while proponents of the current seal say that it speaks to an important moment in Union County history that should not be forgotten, others say it is time for a change.
“In the case of Hannah Caldwell, what’s important is that we honor her with dignity and respect,” said New Providence resident Kathleen Nolan, a member of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization dedicated to ending gun violence, on Thursday. “The scene depicted in the former seal gives just as much acknowledgement to the shooter as it does to the victim. The [decision to change the seal] does not erase history, but it does honor her bravery in a more respectful way,” Ms. Nolan stated.
Other residents, however, including County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi (who currently serves as the president of the Union County Historical Society), argued that changing the seal could have unintended consequences.
“I suspect that the artists or artist who designed the two seals that the board is now considering know little about Union County history,” Ms. Rajoppi said Thursday, adding that the proposed juxtaposition of the transportation quadrant (which includes a plane in mid-flight) with the image of the county courthouse could be too reminiscent of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center for some residents.
“More than 60 Union County residents died on 9/11,” Ms. Rajoppi continued. “I have heard from many people that this insensitive depiction is disturbing and recalls for them the horrors of that day. This is not something that we want to promote.”
County representatives said Thursday that the quadrants could — and likely will — be rearranged to negate any negative association with the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Other residents, including Ronald Martin, of Linden, said the new designs are uninteresting and uninspired.
“Our seal is unique and thought-provoking,” Mr. Martin said. “The ones that have been proposed look just like everybody else’s. This is our history on that seal and we should leave it alone.”
The commissioners, too, seemed split.
“I’m not in favor of changing the seal. It’s just fine the way it is,” said Commissioner Al Mirabella. “My colleagues are well-aware of my position. Hopefully, we’ll find a way to navigate this seal issue and at least provide people with a voice in this matter.”
Several residents asked that the option to keep the original seal be included in the county’s online poll regarding the issue, but so far, the commissioners have not given any indication that they intend to do so.
“One of the things that I don’t think is helpful to these conversations is the overblown rhetoric and dire predictions that history will end if this seal is changed,” Commissioner Rebecca Williams said, adding that the violent image on the current seal only serves to glorify Mrs. Caldwell’s death without honoring her life. “Caldwell Parsonage will still be there, the 30-plus historic sites in Union County will still be there, the battlefields all over the state will still be there. I think there’s a way that we can look forward while still honoring the past.”