County Judge Griffin responds to flag and seal contest results


UPDATE, Aug. 12, 2020, 3:20 p.m.: Judge Griffin has provided bios for the flag designer and the seal designer.

From Judge Griffin:

Truls Erik Rypern (seal designer) is a young Norwegian graphic artist with strong connections to the USA. He’s spent every summer in Minnesota and has always wanted to eventually move there. His whole life he’s had a bit of a “visual eye,” and he’s long been interested in the flags, seals, and coats-of-arms of various places around the world. His dream is actually to design local symbols professionally. He’d like to see communities develop more of a sense of place, and he’d like to see countries become closer.

While he was studying graphic design, art, and media production at Sørumsand High School, his hand-sewn flag was exhibited at the national level of the Norwegian Youth Festivals of Art.

Also while in high school, he started participating in various design contests around the world. That’s how he found Independence County.

Now that he’s graduated from high school, he’ll begin studies at Bjerkely Folk High School, where he’ll study comic and manga art.

His personal blog is, where you’ll find his designs and posts about other things that interest him.

The flag designer, Dalton James, a 2017 graduate of Lyon College, is a multifaceted artist best known for his musical compositions. He has won awards for multiple artistic endeavors but finds special interest in graphic design and vexillology. He currently resides in Michigan and is proud of the years he spent in Independence County reflecting that into his flag design.

Flag 11 -- Dalton James


At Monday’s meeting of the Independence County Quorum Court, the results of a flag and seal design contest for the county were unveiled to the justices. (Click here for the story and to view all the submitted designs.)

However, when the selected design of the seal (pictured below) was introduced on social media, the majority of comments from the public were negative. 

Seal 3 -Truls Rypern

Some complained the seal had Nazi imagery with the thunderbolts. Others complained about the design itself, noting everything from confusion about a wheel with wings and the presence of rainbow trout, a fish that doesn’t have too strong of a presence in the section of the White River that flows through most of the county. While other commenters noted the designer of the seal, Truls Rypern, was not from Independence County — but was from Norway.

Judge Robert Griffin responded to the controversy this morning by emailing the following statement to White River Now:

After two press releases around one month apart and coverage in our local media’s social media pages, a contest to submit visions for a county seal and separately a county flag, ended the close of business July 31, 2020. I know this was tagged to several artistic individuals on social media by friends. We received four entries for the county seal. Other than a name and symbolism, their addresses were not required.

After the fact, we now know the selected seal was from an entry from Norway. That we had international participation was unexpected but also an honor. Our expectations were that county residents would be the only ones with entries. 

With the selection process complete, we have an opportunity to refine this vision into a very professional seal for our county. Allow me to explain the process to bring this to life. After the QC voted, I have the responsibility to bring forth what the expectations are from their selection, keeping the stated symbolisms intact. I received the permission from the seal’s creator to amend it to our specifications. I have begun that process.

I am reaching out to a local graphic artist, recommended to me, to begin refining our new seal. Allow me to give some insight in what I will recommend. 

The bell is to represent the Liberty Bell due to our name coming from the Declaration of Independence. Let’s begin by having an actual Liberty Bell image replace the bell as seen. Behind that true Liberty Bell, images of our educational institutions.

Where the trout is, a largemouth bass would be a countywide fish and perhaps add to that an image of a buck deer. Our outdoor opportunities are now displayed as per the intended symbolism. 

The Norwegian has already suggested a change to his Nordic bolts. Let’s follow his symbolism for our industries in energy production to have a biofuel recycling image with the old Reddy Kilowatt image (circa 1926) holding that instead of the bolts seen in the submitted seal. 

Now you have some historic images but still representing the symbolism intended. If it’s not too busy, perhaps Reddy could be seated on a mower to add other industries. This is where a pro can flesh out the intent.

As to those seeing bad or improper images in his production, he is a Norwegian. He has no knowledge of some of the things talked about. Norway was occupied by Hitler. An innocent attempt to honor us holds none of the figures imagined. 

Although I expected a local winner, each of us should feel privileged that a citizen from another nation took the time to learn about us and regardless of the changes needed, did a pretty good job with his intended symbolism. 

I hope that when this has the professional touch from a local graphic artist, we will be united in a love for the end results. 

For those that feel something different would be better, please submit your vision to be displayed as well.

White River Now News Team

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