The idea of Oak Harbor forming a relationship with a sister city appeals to Mayor Scott Dudley.
He sees the value in such cultural exchange opportunities. He likes the idea of guests from a foreign town visiting and becoming intimately acquainted with Oak Harbor and its people, and imagines residents here would be excited about doing the same somewhere else.
He wonders why Oak Harbor hasn’t done this already.
“Other cities are way ahead of us having one, two or several sister cities,” Dudley said. “You don’t have to look very far to see the success they have at Anacortes. I think the city of Oak Harbor would benefit greatly.”
Dudley laid the groundwork by forming a committee to explore how Oak Harbor could land a sister city.
The six-member committee has met once a month for about six months and will meet again Sept. 9.
The group already has adopted bylaws and is working toward gaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
The group is currently trying to develop criteria to use in determining how to select a city.
Dudley said he doesn’t envision a sister city being named until next summer.
Bob Wall, who is on Oak Harbor’s sister city committee, said community members will be involved in naming the city and expects there to be a public forum.
“When we open this up to the public, we have to have criteria on how to select a city because everybody has an opinion,” Wall said.
Outside of developing such criteria, the committee also is working to connect with the Sister Cities International organization and learning about ways to raise money.
There are many steps before focusing on potential city partnerships.
Oak Harbor is surrounded by communities that have sister cities.
Anacortes has four sister cities, representing four different countries.
Anacortes started with the Russian city of Lomonosov in 1992 and has since formed sister city partnerships with Kisakata, Japan; Sidney, B.C.; and Vela Luka, Croatia.
Mount Vernon has two sister cities: Chilliwack, B.C., and Matsushige, Japan. La Conner (Olga, Russia) and Port Townsend (Ichikawa, Japan) each have one.
“The goal of sister cities is trying to build relations with other cities throughout the world,” Wall said. “Primarily, it’s going to be a cultural exchange. We’re really excited about it.”
Wall said he got interested in the sister city concept after his own personal experience of going on a mission to the Eastern African country of Uganda. He’s developed friendships with people from Uganda.
Lorena Albert, who’s also on the committee, said she would have welcomed the sight of a city like Oak Harbor forming a relationship with a town in her home country when she was growing up. She is from the Philippines but has lived in Oak Harbor since 1991.
“I came from a Third World country,” Albert said. “I wish another country would have reached out and helped us. I would like to help out another country.”