The Mississippi flag is flying over City Hall in Ocean Springs.
Ocean Springs’ Mayor Shea Dobson put it up — along with the U.S. flag — on Wednesday, the day of this administration’s first board meeting.
“It was ultimately my call. I will take ownership. I put it up,” Dobson said. “No vote. I’ve been asked by a lot of different folks to put it up.”
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“We live in Mississippi, so we’re going to fly the state flag,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
“It has nothing to do with the design, but everything to do with us being a municipality in Mississippi,” he said.
“It can be a heated topic,” he said, “but flying the state flag and changing the state flag are two separate issues.”
Pascagoula has done the same thing.
A spokesman for Pascagoula said that when the new administration noticed it wasn’t flying at City Hall, the new city manager ordered the Mississippi flag raised.
It has not been a tradition to fly the state flag at city hall in either city.
Former Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said she doesn’t remember the Mississippi flag ever flying in front of their City Hall. A longtime employee in Pascagoula said it hasn’t flown over City Hall there in 20 years.
In Ocean Springs, the state flag is and has been on display in the Board of Aldermen room at City Hall and on the poles in front of the police and fire departments on U.S. 90.
But Moran said, “We never flew the state flag over City Hall. I don’t even think they did that before I was elected (12 years ago).”
In Ocean Springs, it appears the decision is at the discretion of the mayor, who runs the day-to-day operation of the city.
There are only two spots for flags on the pole at City Hall, and the bicentennial flag has been flying for most of this year, under the U.S. flag.
In Jackson County, the NAACP asked leaders to take down the Mississippi flag a year ago, but the Board of Supervisors, divided along racial lines, voted to keep it flying on county property.
D’Iberville flies the state flag at City Hall, but Biloxi doesn’t. However, Biloxi voted to take the issue to the state Attorney General on whether the mayor had the authority to take it down.
On the issue of people being offended by a version of the Confederate battle flag that graces a corner of the Mississippi flag, a reminder of times of slavery and racial inequality, Dobson said:
“I look at the flag as a symbol, and you can’t dictate how people relate to a symbol,” he said. “Both sides need to be more understanding about where the other is coming from. There is no right answer.”
He has written his thoughts on the issue in an online article.
Dobson said he supports a new vote on the design of the flag. He said it should be a vote of the people and not the Legislature.
“And it if it’s changed, whatever flag the people of Mississippi want as a flag, we will fly that,” he said. “I will fly the flag of Mississippi regardless.”
He has received comments on his action.
“Most of the people who have noticed it have been in favor,” he said. “But I’m sure that will change when this article comes out.
“But I knew what I was doing when I put it up. I’ll answer any questions people have. I believe in transparency.”
Dobson’s office number is 228-875-6722.