TUPELO • After missing his statutory deadline by more than a week, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Friday announced he has appointed Betsey Hamilton, a resident of New Albany, to serve on a commission that will select a new state flag design for voter approval.
Hamilton is a retired public school teacher, a real estate broker and appraiser, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Hamilton also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The bill Reeves signed into law creating the flag commission, required him to appoint one representative from the department of archives and history, one representative from the Mississippi Economic Council and one representative from the Mississippi Arts Commission.
The law also required him to appoint the three members to the commission by July 15. As more time went by without his appointments, a communications official from Reeves’ office told the Daily Journal in a statement that he was not able to appoint people to the commission by the statutory deadline because his main priority was focusing on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Governor Reeves’ top priority right now is ensuring the health and well-being of all Mississippians during this unprecedented pandemic, working around the clock with our state health experts to limit transmission,” the spokesperson said. “The Governor will announce his appointees once he’s had the opportunity to review the limited options from which he’s able to choose.”
Reeves also announced that he appointed Cyrus Ben, the tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, as a representative of the economic council and Frank Bordeaux, the vice president of property and casualty for BXS Insurance in Mississippi, as a representative of the arts council to serve on the flag commission.
Hamilton is the second resident from Northeast Mississippi to be appointed to the commission. House Speaker Philip Gunn last week appointed Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill to the commission.
Other members of the commission include former state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, Vicksburg attorney J. Mack Varner, former Gulf Coast teacher and Secretary of State staffer Sherri Carr Bevis, Mary Graham, the president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and TJ Taylor, a staff member to Gunn.
The commission is tasked with recommending a new design for the state flag by Sept. 14. The law gives the commission broad authority on how to choose the flag. The only requirements for the flag are that it cannot contain the Confederate battle emblem and it must include the phrase “In God We Trust.”
The commission met on Wednesday, July 22, where it announced that they would accept proposed flag designs from the public until early August. The members also said they intended to adopt a proposed design by Sept. 2, which is 12 days earlier than their original deadline.
The public has already submitted about 600 proposals for a new Mississippi flag without the Confederate battle emblem, the director of the state Department of Archives and History said Wednesday.
Voters in the upcoming November election will either vote to approve or reject the design that the commission recommends. If the design is rejected by a majority of the voters, the commission will then present a new design to voters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.