Canal Winchester, two others are 'sister cities'
It's easy for village administrators and council members to become isolated and begin to believe that their community's needs and challenges are unique.
Johnstown Village Council President David Keck said his village would team with two other Ohio communities -- Canal Winchester and Chardon -- as part of a "Sister Cities" program, whereby representatives from those communities will create professional relationships to exchange information and offer each other advice when needed.
"We're looking to have a connection with similar communities that have similar but complementary needs and concerns," Keck said. "It's an ongoing relationship with someone in the same boat you're in."
Keck said the Sister Cities program is free to implement. A sister city, county or state relationship is a broad-based, officially approved, long-term partnership between two municipalities -- or in this case, three cities. A sister city, county or state relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed officials from both communities sign off on an agreement. A city may have anywhere from one to an unlimited number of sister cities, ranging from a half dozen members to hundreds of volunteers, and receive some support from the local government.
Sister Cities relationships offer the flexibility to allow connections to form between communities that are mutually beneficial and take on issues that are most relevant for the partners.
"It's a way for people to get fresh ideas without always talking to the same people internally," Keck said. "You learn your problems aren't unique to you."
He said he had a list of 19 municipalities under consideration for Sister Cities, but Canal Winchester and Chardon were the most similar in population and layout.
"It's always an advantage when you can learn from another community," said Canal Winchester finance director Nanisa Osborn said. She said Johnstown and Canal Winchester are both growing communities. Canal Winchester became a city with the 2010 Census and experienced many changes. She said Canal Winchester's administration and council could be of great help to Johnstown if it ever becomes a city. The communities will be able to exchange zoning codes, policies and procedures and other relevant data.
Chardon City Council members on Sept. 13 expressed support of Johnstown's request to become a Sister City. Chardon's council likely will vote on the request.
"It's also what can we do for them? It's not just about us," Keck said. "I think it's just enjoyable."
He said it's up to Johnstown's individual administrators to forge relationships with their Canal Winchester and Chardon counterparts.
"The rest is up to the imagination," he said.
Keck said time would be the best indicator of the program's success.
"Ten years from now, if we have creative leadership, there will be answers we didn't think about now," he said.
Canal Winchester Mayor Michael Ebert said Johnstown and Canal Winchester are alike in many ways.
"While Canal Winchester officially became a city after the 2010 Census population count of 7,101, we are still a small community, comparatively speaking to some other cities around us," he said. "We have been through and continue to go through growing pains, as, I'm sure, Johnstown is doing."
Both have nice downtown areas that they use as focal points when trying to attract new business that has jobs attached to it, he said.
"Larger businesses always want to know how vibrant the downtown business district is, as it represents to them the local economic strength, and think we can learn from each other successes and the things that weren't so successful," Ebert said. "We look forward to a great relationship with Johnstown as we both learn as we go."