Another effort to remove the Confederate name from the Town of Culpeper reservoir was shot down again Wednesday night.
Lake Pelham, named after Alabama Confederate artillery officer John Pelham, still stands eight months after Town Council voted 5-4 to change it.
Several on the local governing body have changed their minds since originally supporting the name change so coming by a new name has proved all the more challenging.
Councilwoman Jamie Clancey, at the start of the Tuesday night meeting, made a motion to add to the agenda reconsideration of changing the name to Lake Culpeper.
Councilmen Keith Brown, Keith Price and Jon Russell, mayoral candidate, were all absent when the motion was made.
Clancey’s motion to add the agenda item failed by a 3-3 vote.
In support of revisiting Lake Culpeper as the new lake name were Clancey, mayoral candidate and councilman Frank Reaves and councilwoman Meaghan Taylor.
Mayor Mike Olinger, Vice Mayor Billy Yowell and Councilman Pranas Rimeikis voted to not reconsider the name change. Yowell and Rimeikis voted in February to remove Lake Pelham as the name, but reconsidered as they have not supported Lake Culpeper.
For several months, Clancey has attempted to revisit the Confederate name issue, but her attempts to do so have not met majority support among her colleagues on council. Tuesday’s vote was her third failed attempt.
She herself in May voted against Lake Culpeper as the new name, seeking to involve the public more in the renaming process, but has since changed her mind.
Brown and Russell, top voices on council to retain Pelham, showed up late at the Tuesday night meeting after the latest lake renaming vote failed. Russell lashed out later on his campaign Facebook page about the thorny issue, accusing Reaves, Clancey and Taylor of “sneaking it in” without public notice.
“It failed. Again. This has become so extreme, they lost two council members who had voted with them previously,” Russell posted.
To his colleagues, he added, “You can’t change history and obviously you can’t get the votes to change the name of Lake Pelham either. Instead of dividing our community, why don’t you look to future historical sites and names.”
Clancey responded to Russell in her own post.
“It was not ‘sneaking it in’ my motion was made completely within the protocol. And it was a motion just to add to the agenda for us to vote on naming it Lake Culpeper,” she stated. “This issue has nothing to do with Democrat, or Republican, liberal or conservative. Unless of course they are saying that conservative people inherently want to honor Confederates? ...we have already voted to change the name of the lake. That is not what’s up for vote. The issue now is simply what the new name will be.”
Maj. John Pelham (1838-1863) was from Alabama, but had a girlfriend in Culpeper. He perished in the town of an artillery wound suffered 158 years ago during the Battle of Kelly’s Ford. That American Civil War history is well-documented at various sites tied to Pelham in the town and county.