An Orange City Council member confesses she has learned a lesson about mixing patriotism with local politics.
“I was just trying to do something nice and bring the community together,” Council Member Kellianne Marks told The Beacon. “I did this to honor veterans. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Marks, along with her supporters, placed some 2,000 small U.S. flags around the town, many of them in neighborhoods, during the Memorial Day period. The flags, however, also had a card with the message “Marks for Mayor,” in advance of the 2024 municipal election. The black cards carry the required disclosure: “Political advertising paid for and approved by Kelli Marks candidate for Orange City mayor.”
The flags, she said, cost her $3,500, and a portion of the proceeds goes to Soldiers’ Angels, a charity devoted to aiding disabled veterans and their families.
A few days later, Marks added, there was trouble brewing, as other city officials warned her to pick up the flags.
“First they called me and told me I had to take them down,” Marks said, noting the deadline was 3 p.m. Friday, June 2.
The city relented somewhat. Police Chief Wayne Miller said the issue was where the flags had been placed.
“They were placed in the right of way,” he said.
The right of way means the area just beside a road or street, often bounded by a sidewalk. The right of way is public property, even though it may be part of a private lot or parcel.
Miller said his department, which handles code enforcing for Orange City, has not received any formal complaints about the flags.
As she and others were retrieving the flags, Marks said most of the people she encountered wanted the flags to stay.
“We just told them to move the flags up further onto their property,” she added.
As for the political signs, Marks said she sought to comply with the law.
“I tried to read the ordinance. It says no political signs in the right of way,” she noted. “It wasn’t a sign — it was a postcard.”
There may be questions about the timing of the political advertising. City Clerk Kaley Burleson said Orange City’s sign ordinance restricts the time for displaying electoral signs.
“Signs are allowed for a total period of three months during any calendar year,” Burleson said.
Asked if she understands the perception of using Memorial Day for political purposes, Marks admitted in hindsight, “Absolutely. I made a mistake. I should not have picked that holiday to announce my candidacy.”
Marks is seeking to succeed Mayor Gary Blair, who has indicated he will not seek another term as mayor. Another City Council member, Vice Mayor Bill O’Connor, is also running for mayor next year.