Howard County ready to reimagine its 56-year-old flag

Jan. 24—By Sherry Greenfield — [email protected]

January 24, 2024 at 4:02 p.m.

After 56 years, steps are under way to design and select a new flag to represent Howard County.

A 19-member commission has been formed that will accept designs and recommendations from the public for a new flag, County Executive Calvin Ball stated in a news release Monday.

“The Howard County flag should represent the vibrancy and incredible diversity of our community,” Ball said. “Our process will invite the public to reimagine this central symbol and produce recommendations for a design that inspires current and future county residents.”

The commission will accept designs from the public this spring through a website portal. The group will develop criteria used to evaluate the submissions. They will select 10 designs this fall, which the public will have the opportunity to vote on.

In early 2025, the commission will select three finalists from the 10 and present them to the county executive. Ball will evaluate the three recommended designs, choosing one to present to the Howard County Council for final approval.

“The flag commission is a great opportunity to reflect what Howard County is today,” County Council Chairperson Deb Jung stated in the news release. “I’m looking forward to seeing the county’s artistic talents during this process.”

Last year, neighboring Frederick County went through a similar process. Its new flag marked the county’s 275th anniversary.

The county announced that “Frederick, the Crossroads of Maryland,” had been selected as the new flag. The flag, designed by Frederick resident Marc DeOcampo, includes red, yellow, black and white shapes that intersect forming a crossroads design. More than 3,000 votes were cast in the final round of the redesign contest, which was held from May 5 through June 10.

Howard County’s current flag was adopted more than five decades ago. It was designed by resident Jean O. Hannon and chosen from among 40 entries, the news release states. Hannon was a longtime Howard County preservationist who played a major role in the revitalization of Ellicott City and the establishment of its historic district in the mid-1970s. She died at age 82 in 2008.

Hannon incorporated the red and white from the Maryland flag and added a sheaf of golden wheat in the flag’s upper left-hand corner to represent Howard’s agricultural heritage.

A green outline of the county set inside a golden triangle in the lower right-hand corner shows the county’s geographic location in relation to Baltimore, Washington and New York.

When the flag was adopted in 1968, the county looked quite different than it does today.

The county’s population was roughly 60,000 residents, and its landscape was largely rural. That same year, county voters adopted a referendum to change from a smaller commission-based government to a locally elected county executive and council. The “new town” of Columbia had just opened in 1967, which would become a catalyst for rapid growth and transformation.

Today, Howard County has a population of more than 335,000, and is among the most racially diverse, highly educated and highest-earning counties in the nation.

“Howard County has become significantly more diverse over the last 50 years, and it is important that all residents see themselves represented by our county flag.” Maryland State Sen. Clarence Lam of Howard County said in the news release. “That is why I appreciate County Executive Ball’s plan to convene a diverse and public process to develop a new flag for at least the next 50 years. I greatly appreciate and look forward to the work of this new commission.”

Coleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, is the chairperson of the 19-member commission.

“The county has changed dramatically since 1968,” West said in the news release.” I am excited to tap into the creative talents of our community to design a new flag. I look forward to working with this exceptional group of community leaders to recommend new flag design options that will reflect Howard County’s diversity, values, and unique position in the state.”

The commission will also include the following members.

— Four county residents, as recommended by members of the County Council.

— Executive Director of Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation, Inc., or their designee.

— Archivist of the Columbia Association, or their designee.

— Two representatives of the Howard County Historical Society, including the executive director, or their designee.

— Representative of the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County.

— Representative of the Asian American Pacific Islander Commission.

— Representative of the LGBTQIA+ Commission.

— Representative of La Alianza Latina Commission.

— President and chief executive officer of the Howard County Library System, or their designee.

— President and chief executive officer of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, or their designee.

— Executive Director of Howard County Tourism Council, Inc., or their designee.

— President of the Howard County Farm Bureau, or their designee.

— President of Howard Community College, or their designee.

— Representative of the faith community, as selected by Ball.

The public can comment during the commission meetings. The dates and locations of meetings will be posted periodically on the commission’s webpage, at www.howardcountymd.gov/flag.

Questions or comments about the flag design and selection process can be may be emailed to [email protected].

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