ORANGE CITY, Fla. – An Orange City councilwoman sparked controversy after handing out nearly 2,000 American flags for Memorial Day earlier this week.
Councilwoman Kellianne Marks, who is running for mayor, distributed the flags along with a campaign letter to homes throughout the community as a way to celebrate the holiday and announce her candidacy.
“I wanted the people to know that I support veterans, basically, and that I was trying to start a tradition,” Marks told News 6. “They do this back in my hometown, so I thought, ‘You know, why don’t I do this here?’”
Marks said she spent around $3,500 to buy American flags, for which a portion of the funds went to Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit group aimed at helping U.S. service members, veterans and their families.
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Along with her supporters, Marks said she then spent a few days leading up to Memorial Day putting the flags up near homes in the Orange City community. The flags were accompanied by a small card that had her campaign information printed on it.
While Marks meant for the gesture to help celebrate Memorial Day, some members of the community were unhappy with handouts.
“One of (Marks’ constituents called her) and said, ‘This is a disgrace,’” said Debbie Wright, Marks’ campaign manager. “Because you’ve got your advertisement under the flag, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Wright told News 6 that the campaign discussed the issue with veterans and other members of the community, and those consulted “seemed to be pretty happy about it.”
However, city officials said they received some complaints over social media about the flags, prompting the city to look into the issue further.
According to city officials, there were no formal complaints filed, but the flags were considered a violation of code enforcement due to the addition of Marks’ political advertisement.
“They were saying that it’s in the right of way, and you have to take them all down before 3 o’clock on Friday,” Wright explained.
Marks said this was a major issue, as she had her supporters help her put them up over Memorial Day weekend. With the work week already underway, she didn’t have the people necessary to take them all back down.
“It took us five days to put out, and to be truthful, the people that helped me put them out are not available now because it was a holiday,” Marks said. “They were all also working everything, so it was me and Debbie. I’m like, ‘Oh my.’”
Despite the ordinance, Marks said she’s also had people approach her to ask for their flags not to be removed.
“Now, people are going crazy that they don’t want them taken down,” Marks stated. “So I got one person that says, ‘Take them down,’ and then the city says, ‘Take them down.’ And now, I get all these other people — a whole feed on Facebook, saying, ‘We don’t want you to take them down.’”
Marks said she is still planning to take down as many of the flags as possible before Friday afternoon, though she also announced that anyone who wants to keep their flag should place it on their lawn outside of the right-of-way.
Alternatively, those who have had their flags picked up already can request another one by reaching out to Marks or texting (386) 316-2959.
She also issued the following statement in regard to the incident:
“It was not my intention to offend anyone. My idea was to put out 3000 flags for the community to display and show support for our Veterans who have fallen and to honor the Memorial Holiday. I attached a postcard to announce my candidacy and to show my constituents that I support Veterans.”Orange City District 4 Councilwoman Kellianne Marks
Marks and Wright said they would be repurposing the flags they pick up to hand out for a July 4 event planned for later this summer.
She has previously worked on programs like the “Backpack Buddies” nonprofit, which is aimed at tackling food insecurity for local families and students. For more information on that program, click here.
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