Albany has participated in a U.S. State Department exchange program over the last three years that has brought three sets of “Fellows” to the community to observe how local government works here. Our first visitors were two women from New Zealand who serve as the planning director and legal counsel to their local governments. Their visit was followed by a planner from Indonesia and a foundation employee from Cambodia. Last October, we hosted Vermon from the Philippines and Vatahnak from Cambodia. Next week, Dave and Rozaidi will be arriving from the Philippines and Malaysia respectively. These visits last for about a month and provide an opportunity for us to learn something about how local government is conducted in other places while sharing some of our knowledge with distant colleagues.

The common feature of all our visits has been the warmth and courtesy of our visitors. They have, without exception, been very grateful for the chance to be here and very appreciative of our efforts to show them how we do things. We have arranged tours of most of our major facilities and given our guests the chance to participate in a variety of community events. We hope to do the same this month.

I have particularly enjoyed the chance to take people from Southeast Asia to see Crater Lake and experience snow for the first time. Other highlights have included trips to the Oregon Coast, Portland, Seattle, and Salem.

Dave and Rozaidi have special interests in sustainability and marine resources, so we will be showing them our programs and facilities dedicated to natural resource protection as well as sending them to Corvallis to learn more about what our neighbor is doing to promote sustainability. We also hope to connect them to marine biologists at Oregon State, in addition to visiting the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Our guests will have a busy itinerary, but I hope they will also have the chance to meet employees and share thoughts. We have sent two employees to New Zealand and Cambodia as a part of this program, and I believe there will be a third opportunity in July.

We participate in this program as a way to see and learn things we otherwise wouldn’t. Our international guests have allowed me to see things from a fresh perspective and consider better ways of approaching problems. We have many advantages in Albany, and it’s easy to forget how fragile they can be. People in other parts of the world are working hard to improve their communities, and the International Fellows program offers us a great opportunity to learn from their efforts.