The Fort Smith Southside Mascot Committee moved one step closer to naming a replacement for the Rebels mascot Monday night (Oct. 5), but there are still at least two hurdles before it becomes official.
What the Committee did accomplish was to narrow down a pool of 64 mascot names recommended by the community to just five, which will be voted on by the Fort Smith Southside student body next Monday (Oct. 12) during second period of the school day.
Mavericks received the most votes with 29 while Patriots was a close second at 26 though it did seem to pick up steam with committee members and those in attendance at the meeting. Mavericks and Patriots also were the top two favorites of the Committee’s student representatives.
SHS Principal Wayne Haver said it would take some time to tally the votes considering that 1,572 students attend the high school. Students will be tasked with picking their top two from the list before their recommendation comes back before the Committee later that evening.
It’s possible the 29-person panel “could acquiesce to the student vote,” Haver said, though the final decision will be the Committee’s to make.
As for the rest of the list, Spartans received the next highest number of votes with 17 and Mustangs and Marshals tied for the last two slots with 11 each.
POSSIBLE MONKEY WRENCH
While Mavericks and Patriots are the clear favorites at this time, whatever the committee ends up selecting for their final recommendation could hit a snag with the School Board or with the pending lawsuit of Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen (more likely). McCutchen’s lawsuit challenging how the School Board voted on the mascot change was recently dismissed by Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox.
McCutchen was in attendance at the meeting and used his two minutes of floor time to voice his support for the Patriots name, though he did say in comments to The City Wire that he plans to press his lawsuit to the Arkansas Supreme Court if necessary, and that should he win, that could change the outcome.
In a vote at the Sept. 28 meeting, newly elected School Board member Wade Gilkey presented a motion to rebrand the Rebels name, but that effort ultimately failed 3-3 with Gilkey, Bill Hanesworth, and David Hunton voting to keep the name and Yvonne Keaton-Martin, Deanie Mehl, and Jeannie Cole voting against it. Board member Susan McFerran was not in attendance, but had previously voted to end use of the Rebels mascot.
BELLES AND MARSHALS
The Committee’s decision is playing out against some who still oppose the change. After asking for suggestions from the community, Haver acknowledged that the most recommendations (22 out of 157) were for the Rebels, but given the Board’s 3-3 vote, that would not be on the table Monday night.
Other developments Monday night included a willingness to keep the “Belles,” with the Committee agreeing that there was nothing inherently contentious about the name that could be tied back to the Confederacy. While not put to a vote, student representatives and alumni were in agreement.
Also, Jason Meadows, a cartoonist and 2007 SHS graduate requested consideration in developing the new mascot whenever it was decided. His personal preference: Marshals, and instead of using the controversial Johnny Reb character, use an image of legendary U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves.
Haver said the committee’s next meetings are set for Oct. 12 and Oct. 26, but if a decision is reached at next Monday’s meeting, the Oct. 26 meeting will likely be canceled.