New Macon-Bibb seal idea hits commission resistance

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 10, 2014 

The new Macon-Bibb County commissioners aren’t automatically endorsing everything prepared for them by the task force that worked on government consolidation.

It emerged this week that commissioners panned the recommended design for a new Macon-Bibb County official seal. County Manager Dale Walker showed a revised version during a commission meeting, saying it had been drawn up because commissioners “didn’t get excited” about the earlier recommendation.

The suggested substitute’s main image is a single, large picture of the reconstructed blockhouse at Fort Hawkins, the fort founded in 1806 that served as the early nucleus of Macon.

“(The) mayor suggested the current proposed design,” Walker said later via email. It was made by webmaster Justin Crum, based on a picture of Fort Hawkins on the portico of City Hall.

Former City Councilman Henry Ficklin, a contender for the still-contested District 2 commission seat, said the name “Fort Hawkins” should be added to the image to make sure people can properly identify it. With that change, Walker said, it will come up for a final vote by commissioners at their regular meeting Jan. 21.

The transition task force held a public contest to design a new government seal to be used on stationery, business cards, vehicles and other official items. The contest attracted more than 20 entries. In November the winner was announced: Mark Strozier, owner of The Brainstorm Lab design firm. He won a $250 prize, but at the time task force members cautioned that the final decision would be up to the new commission.

The winning design was already a slight change from Strozier’s original submission. It had featured a ring with the words “Macon-Bibb County Georgia;” the incorporation dates of the city, county and new government; four pictorial panels inside the ring; and at the bottom laurel branches and the Latin motto “Pariter Protinus,” or “forward together.”

Task force members recommended changing the fish-and-game image on one panel with a depiction of the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument. The other three panels showed a Greek column capital; an electric guitar body; and a schematic landscape of the Ocmulgee River, Interstates 16 and 75, with airplane contrails overhead.

The latest proposal keeps the blue ring, the words “Macon-Bibb County,” the incorporation dates and the Latin motto, but drops the laurel branches and four images inside the ring.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins referred to Strozier’s design as “the commemorative plate” and said he thought it included too much detail to reproduce well on a small scale or in black-and-white, such as on business cards.

“It’s beautiful artwork, don’t get me wrong,” Watkins said. “If I had my way, it would be more of a governmental-type thing where we were going with an eagle head or a soaring eagle, a lion-type thing or the scales of justice. ... It looks official when you do that.”

He understands the desire to include more local and historic context, but said he expects the simple Fort Hawkins design is what commissioners will go with.

Strozier said he was surprised to hear that commissioners rejected his contest-winning design out of hand, and he hadn’t been told about it directly. His design was a “functional prototype” that could have been altered to include Fort Hawkins if that’s what commissioners wanted, he said.

“That was one of the options that someone had asked me, and I said that could definitely be done,” Strozier said. He noted that his submission, in compliance with contest rules, included a black-and-white version. How well it reproduced on a small scale would depend on the resolution of the printer, he said.

Commissioner Al Tillman said Strozier submitted a “great design,” but he also wanted something simpler -- and one with bolder colors than the near-pastels of the recommended version.

“I think what we were looking for was something that would appeal a little more as a lapel pin, and that just didn’t do it as far as the color,” Tillman said.

Fort Hawkins is a well-known local landmark that should be on the seal, though personally he’d like to add Macon’s famous cherry blossoms, or at least some representative pink, he said.

Strozier said he disagreed. Featuring only the blockhouse would leave out equally important local attractions, from natural features to historic architecture -- symbolized in his design by the Greek capital -- which is a “huge, huge draw” for visitors, he said.

“I think there’s a lot more to the area than Fort Hawkins,” Strozier said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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