Small Towns in a Globalized World

Updated: Jan 15

The World Affairs Council of Maine had the privilege of hosting two mayors from Germany who were participating in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project focused on “Small Towns in a Globalized World” from July 22 – 23, 2019. The program’s participants were Lord Mayor Silvio Witt, from Neubrandenburg and Mayor Sven Schrade from Schmoelln.

Nationally, the objectives for this project were to (1) use on-the-ground experience to explore the function of local governments, and how they interact with state and federal governments; (2) examine local politics and the critical role of civic participation in the democratic process; (3) study best practices on integrating migrants and refugees into homogeneous societies; (4) learn ways to attract investment, develop efficient infrastructure, and promote green urban (and suburban and rural) planning; and (5) examine how “smart” technology and other sustainable approaches to urban and regional planning can mitigate problems related to population decline.

Day 1 of our visitors’ itinerary began with a meeting with Portland’s Mayor Ethan K. Strimling who discussed his strategy for moving Portland forward as a vibrant, global community, and the challenges of governing a city with a growing community of refugees and immigrants.

Mayor Ethan Strimling talks with the German visitors about their countries and his strategic vision for Portland:

Following their appointment with the Mayor, the group met with Portland’s Department of Planning and Urban Development for discussions on how the city has transitioned over the years from a fishing, manufacturing, and agricultural community to a more service-based economy and visually appealing community. This city department is responsible for the coordination of all short and long-range planning functions in Portland to guide positive change toward a shared sustainable community vision. During this meeting, discussions included incorporating the arts and historic preservation in long-range planning while blending modern architecture with the old.

Caitlin Cameron, Portland’s Urban Designer, discusses the importance of the arts in city planning:

After their meeting with the Department of Planning and Urban Development, the visitors enjoyed a working lunch at DiMillo’s Restaurant with Anna Kellar, Executive Director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. During this meeting the topics of engaging the broader population in civic participation and building solutions for the future were discussed over lobster rolls and other examples of the Maine culinary scene.

Immediately after lunch the group returned to City Hall for a meeting with Lena Geraghty, Portland’s Director of Innovation. The visitors learned how the City of Portland is working to make its community an innovation hub, a place where data and technology are used to improve people’s lives and make interactions with city government more efficient.

Lena Geraghty, Portland’s Director of Innovation, discusses incorporating “smart”

technology into long-range planning:

On Monday evening, the mayors were treated to an evening of dinner diplomacy at the Peaks Island home of Council members Suzanne Fox, Moritz Hansen, and their daughter Julia.

The morning of Day 2, the group traveled to the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) for a meeting and discussions with Tony Plante, Director of Municipal Collaboration, and Chris Hall, GPCOG’s General Counsel and Director of Regional Initiatives. These talks focused on advancing greater regional prosperity through a multi-municipal partnership model.

Tony Plante, CPCOG’s Director of Municipal Collaboration, talks with the IVLP participants:


After their meeting with CPCOG, the visitors met with Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, and Bryce Hach, of their board of directors. During this meeting, the importance of revitalizing communities and promoting sustainable prosperity through the integration of natural landscape conservation with economic growth was discussed.

Nancy Smith and Bryce Hach of GrowSmart Maine with the visitors after their meeting:

Our visitors had a unique opportunity to have lunch that day with Adrian Kendall, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany to Maine and New Hampshire, a position he has held since 2007. Adrian is also a current board member of the World Affairs Council of Maine:

After lunch on Tuesday, the IVLP participants toured LearningWorks and learned about its mission to provide the best learning opportunities in Maine for at-risk youth, the immigrant community, and low-income families through their various programs. After the tour, Jessica Moninski, Director of Programs, and Rachel Evenson, English Language & Literacy Program Coordinator, discussed services for the immigrant and refugee members of the public.

Jessica Moninski, LearningWorks’ Director of Programs, gave the visitors a tour of LearningWorks:

The final official stop of their Maine itinerary was the Maine International Trade Center (MITC) where they met with MITC’s President, Wade Merritt, and other members of the staff. These discussions centered around expanding local businesses and services globally and attracting global businesses:

Our visitor from Schmoelln, Germany, Mayor Sven Schrade, enlightened us about a tradition between municipal fire departments of the world which is to trade T-shirts with each other. At his request, we made time at the end of the second day to stop by the Portland Fire Department so that he could give them a T-shirt from the Schmoelln Fire Department. Our firefighters obliged the request and gave him a Portland Fire Department T-shirt and patch to take back to his city’s fire department:

The World Affairs Council of Maine would like to thank the following people/organizations for their support of this program:

City of Portland, Maine

o Ethan K. Strimling, Mayor

o Jeff Levine, Director, Department of Planning and Urban Development

o Christine Grimando, City Planning Director

o Deb Andrews, Historic Preservation Manager

o Caitlin Cameron, Urban Designer

o Lena Geraghty, Director of Innovation

o Portland Fire Department

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections

o Anna Kellar, Executive Director

Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG)

o Tony Plante, Director of Municipal Collaboration

o Chris Hall, GPCOG General Counsel and Director of Regional Initiatives

GrowSmart Maine

o Nancy Smith, Executive Director

o Bryce Hach, Board of Directors

Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany

o Adrian Kendall; Norman, Hanson, and DeTroy


o Jessica Moninski, Director of Programs

o Rachel Evenson, English Language & Literacy Program Coordinator

Maine International Trade Center

o Wade Merritt, President

o Tom Conley, Director of Defense Industry Maine and International Trade Specialist

o Zeynep Turk, Director of StudyMaine and Senior Trade Specialist

o Billie Cary, Trade Information Specialist

Dinner Diplomats

o Suzanne Fox, Moritz Hansen, and Julia Hansen