An aversion to air travel will not prevent Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard from representing the United States as a legislative fellow in India and Sri Lanka at the 2014 Fellows Program of the World Learning Organization.
"I'm honored and thrilled to be selected. I'd be a fool not to go just because I'm out of my comfort zone," said Maggard, who was unaware she had even been nominated and took a couple of days to ponder whether she would make the two-week overseas trip.
Maggard will be one of only four U.S. citizens traveling in a group for the Fellows Program, which runs Jan. 5-22.
Joining her will be Joseph Garrity, legislative aide for Ohio Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus); Ebony Barley, director of the office of the mayor of Atlanta; and Monika Starczuk, program manager for Uniting AmeriCorps at the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights.
Maggard's 17-day trip is fully funded through the U.S. Department of State.
"I had to get a passport and a visa to go," said Maggard, who has not traveled abroad for several decades and has never been to Asia.
Maggard will travel to India and Sri Lanka to meet with leaders at various levels of government in each country, sharing American political policies and practices.
"It will be an exhaustive trip. I've been told to expect 12- to 14-hour days meeting with many people, both government and non-government, teaching them about our experience (in the United Sates)," Maggard said.
But she also hopes there is a two-way exchange of information and ideas.
"I hope to learn many things and bring back knowledge that will be valuable to our city," Maggard said.
She said she plans to document the trip and share her experiences with the city's employees, other elected officials and residents through blogs that will be posted via social media and Whitehall's official website.
"I knew I needed to do this," Maggard said. "When I get back, I think I'll see Whitehall through new eyes."
Whitehall Council President Jim Graham will serve as acting mayor in the absence of Maggard.