Kennesaw establishes commission for cultural and economic exchange

Kennesaw City HallKennesaw government complex (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Following months of research and presentations, Kennesaw City Council officially approved the establishment of a Sister Cities Commission at Tuesday’s meeting.

Andrew Gasparini, assistant to city manager Jeff Drobney, is the lead on the project.

“I’d like to see your [Gasparini] plan go to work. I’m going to suggest to the Council that they leave it as is. You put an awful lot of time and effort into this,” Mayor Derek Easterling said at last week’s work session.

Tuesday’s vote approved the commission bylaws presented by Gasparini. The mission is “to promote cultural, economic and educational exchange between the City of Kennesaw and its Sister Cities as well as any other form of exchange the city may deem appropriate in the future.”

The commission will have a maximum of seven members. At least four must be city residents, employees of a business or organization, or a combination of those criteria. The commission must include a representative from the following: Kennesaw Art and Culture Commission, Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority, Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s economic development team, Kennesaw State University’s Division of Global Affairs, North Cobb School for International Studies, and two members of the community “dedicated to fulfilling the objectives of the Commission.”

Gasparini said he has already reached out to the listed organizations to ensure they are interested in participating. Commission members will not receive compensation or expenses. With the exception of staggered terms for the inaugural commission, terms will be for two years.

Kennesaw attempted a Sister City relationship many years ago, but it fell to the wayside without a dedicated contact to keep it going. During the course of Gasparini’s research, and while talking to other cities and counties with similar programs, he found that the relationships often dissolved as people left office and people with different priorities were elected. They also tended to fall apart when only one person was tasked with maintaining the relationship. The purpose of the commission is to have a formal entity in charge of maintaining and moving the relationship forward.

One of the first tasks for commissioners will be to find a city with similar goals for establishing a partnership.

Sister Cities International was founded in 1956 by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower to foster citizen diplomacy.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.

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