Mayor Bill Mutz is getting proactive in the effort to raise private funds to move the Confederate statue from Munn Park to Veterans Park. Declaring “most people are waiting for an initiative,” he sent letters to 350 potential donors last week to get that initiative going. 

Mutz, who brought a large network of civic and business contacts when he took office in January, said he will start reaching out personally to contacts in a week.

He has set a goal of raising $200,000 for the move by the end of August.

While large donations are appreciated, he said he’s looking for a broad base of support. “It says a lot about us and Lakeland. We want people to be willing to give $5 if it’s the most they can do. Obviously I’d like gifts to be in the $25 and $100 range ideally. But showing the numbers of people who are willing to be part of that history is as important as the total dollars.”

After sending out the letter in the latter half of last week, Mutz said he has received four checks so far.

Mutz’ letter carried a theme of “supporting a future that honors everyone.” A key part of it reads:

• By the move, we honor the memory of the soldiers who fought to defend Florida

• By the move, we honor the African-American citizens who heard a different,exclusionary purpose for its placement when erected,

• By the move, we honor taxpayers who may not wish to fund a sensitive issue with which they may not agree, and

• By the move, we build upon the history created by those before us.

The City Commission’s vote in May to move the monument to Veterans Park carried the provision that no tax dollars be used for the move.

The monument to Confederate war dead sits at the center of Munn Park, which has been likened to Lakeland’s town square.

After the vote, the city set up a fund to receive donations (Checks made out to City of Lakeland can be sent to City Hall) and launched a GoFundMe page. Contributions as of last week totaled $10,031, according to the city’s monument relocation webpage.

But what’s been lacking so far is a concerted effort, Mutz said. That’s where the five-week push comes in.

“There were people who favored the monument that I certainly want to see as participants in giving,” he said. “That is something that is important to me. And it’s an example of all paying our fair share.”

In a separate fund-raising effort, Lakeland author/artist Fred Koehler is organizing an online auction of goods and services with proceeds going to the move-the-monument fund. The auction will launch “in the coming weeks,” he said recently.

View previous LkldNow coverage of the monument issue.

The next step in the monument-moving process takes place Thursday morning when the Historic Preservation Board’s Design Review Committee considers the city’s request to move the monument.

The staff preservation expert has recommended moving the 108-year-old monument, saying it was not a key factor in the designation of the Munn Park area as a historic district.

The 7:30 a.m. meeting has been moved from a small conference room at City Hall to the City Commission chambers in anticipation of a large audience of advocates on both sides of the divisive issue.

LkldNow plans to livestream the meeting on its Facebook page.

The letter:

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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