By Kevin Kelley
For the first time ever last week, Westlake welcomed the mayors of both of its sister cities at the same time.
The mayor of Tralee, Ireland, Johnnie Wall, was accompanied by his wife, Tina, and Town Clerk Michael Scannell and Town Engineer Gerry Riordan. Nelson Santos, the mayor of Kingsville, Ontario, traveled to Westlake by himself. The mayors’ visits coincided with the Northern Ohio Rose of Tralee selection ceremony, which both leaders attended. Westlake World Partners, a nonprofit group created to fund programs with Westlake’s sister cities, runs the Rose contest.
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough called the visits a huge success. Asked about future endeavors between the sister cities, Clough replied, “There are a lot of ideas. There’s nothing concrete at this point.” Trading ideas on governance and development is the basis of such relationships, he added.
On Friday, Wall and his entourage visited the headquarters of Hyland Software, the document processing company headquartered in Westlake that has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Then he visited the Brooklyn headquarters of American Greetings, which plans to move to Crocker Park.
Wall told West Life he was impressed that Westlake’s economic growth is spurred by clean industries. Tralee’s industrial past was marked by pollution-causing factories that are now closed, he said. He acknowledged that Tralee is struggling to hold onto its existing jobs in the difficult economic situation Ireland and the rest of Europe face today.
Wall said he was also impressed with Crocker Park, where he said parking is free and convenient. Tralee’s downtown region has struggled in recent years because the city charges for parking there. In contrast, he said, a shopping center just outside of town is thriving because it offers abundant, free parking.
Both mayors were given keys to Westlake by Clough at a ceremony Saturday morning at Crocker Park. Wall praised his Westlake hosts for their hospitality.
“We’ve been fed and watered, fed and watered, over and over again,” Wall joked.
Making his second visit to Westlake, Santos told West Life he’d like for the schools in Kingsville and Westlake to organize some joint activities, such as an art exchange. He also suggested the two cities plan some joint events in the first week in July to celebrate both Canada Day on July 1 and America’s Independence Day on July 4. He noted that Kingsville will be hosting three tall ships this Labor Day weekend in connection with the War of 1812 anniversary commemorations.
As cold winds blew at Crocker Park Saturday morning, Santos reminded Westlakers that Kingsville is Canada’s most southern town, and that spring will soon come.
“You opened the doors to us, and we certainly are enjoying the beginning of our relationship as sister cities,” Santos said.