Sandra MacDonald Davis: A NEW CITY AND A MORE ROBUST ORGANIZATION

WHEN: 11 September 2013
WHERE: The home of Sandra MacDonald Davis, Mclean, Virginia
INTERVIEWER: Chrystia Sonevytsky

Chrystia: Sandy, I want to say thank you very much for making yourself available for this interview. By the way, I am Chrystia Sonevytsky. I am interviewing Sandra MacDonald Davis in her lovely home in McLean on the 12th anniversary of 9/11 which September 11, 2013.

Sandy: Thank you, Chrystia.

Chrystia: Sandy, I would like to ask you first of all to talk about from the very early beginning, infancy, when you were born, where you born, not why you were born. (laughs)

Sandy: OK, sure. I was born on February 12, 1959 in Wurzburg, Germany where my father, who was in the military, was stationed. My sister Debbie was already there when I came along. I spent the first two years of my life there in Germany, and then we moved to Governor’s Island in New York just outside Manhattan because my dad was posted there.

Chrystia – He was military?

Sandy – Yes, he was career military and in the army. So we moved around a bit when I was a child. My mother is German from Bavaria. They met when he was on assignment in her town and dated for five years. I think at one point she thought that she was going to be heart-broken, but he came back. And they got married, and here we are. After Governor’s Island in New York, we went back to Germany and that’s where I went to Kindergarten. I don’t think I spoke German before that but I did learn it that year. And I went through third grade in the American school in Munich. My dad retired at that point. We moved to Florida when I was nine, and that’s where I finished growing up. My interest in Germany, in international things, my exposure to other cultures started immediately and really with my mom.

Chrystia – very early in your life.

Sandy – very early and very consistently. My whole life, really. Such that when I was a junior in high school and there was an opportunity to go on an exchange program overseas, I jumped at it. I spent a year in Switzerland. By then I had actually mostly forgotten my German. I took it in high school but it had gotten very rusty because we didn’t speak it at home. But during my exchange year I learned a kind of Swiss German and had a super year, and I would say that that year really changed the course of my life completely.

Chrystia – and you were in high school then?

Sandy – yes, a high school senior, so I actually graduated from high school with credits that I earned in Switzerland. I lived in a small town called Schoenenwerd and went to high school in Ahrensburg, a short train ride away. Then I came back to the US and went to college where I picked up Spanish and continued German. I really couldn’t wait to get back to Europe because I had had such a fantastic year there, living with a host family just experiencing all the excitement of being a foreign exchange student in a small town.

Chrystia – May I ask you, where were you in college?

Sandy – I went to college at Stetson University which is in DeLand, Florida, a small, private university about an hour from where I grew up. I had gotten an ROTC scholarship actually at that point.

Stetson had a junior year abroad program which allows you to earn credits towards graduation while studying overseas. I did the junior year abroad program during my sophomore year because I was so eager to go back. I spent the first semester in Spain studying at the Universidad Complutense. I really learned Spanish quickly then in that intensive semester, and then I went to Freiburg, Germany for the second semester. I came back to Florida for my junior year of college feeling very anti-military, which I think was the German influence, and I resigned my ROTC scholarship and just continued on my own through loans and working to finish school. I graduated from college in 1981 and didn’t really know what to do with myself so I decided to ..

Chrystia – May ask what you majored in? Languages?

Sandy – Yes, languages, German and Spanish.

Chrystia – so you at least know two languages, German and Spanish. And some English. (laugh)

Sandy – yes, I’m not sure what order I would put them in but that’s correct. I took some French, too but never became very good at it. I never spent time living in a French-speaking environment. So then in 1981 I moved up to Washington DC to go to George Washington University for an MA in International Affairs. I lived with a German diplomatic family in order to reduce my expenses, took care of their kids part-time while I was in school and so continuing the international context, and ultimately graduated with the degree in 1984. My first job was working for a youth exchange organization – Youth for Understanding- which still exists, and is headquartered in Washington, DC. It has lots of programs all over the world at the high school level. It was a natural fit for me with my own experience having been an exchange student, and with my international interests. It was a good job for me, and I did that for seven years, running their government and corporate scholarship programs. Then I was ready for a change, and I moved on to Meridian International Center, again international exchanges but at the professional level, and then onward to AED in 2000 for professional level exchanges and then academic, university level exchanges. I discovered the Arlington Sister City Association by chance at a Sister Cities conference which I had attended as part of my job. At that point I was heading up a department and part of my work was connecting to similar organizations with similar interests to do programs together. I happened to sit next to Jim Rowland at a sister cities conference in 2003, and I learned about the Arlington Sister City Association. By then I was living in Arlington..

Chrystia – oh you were living in Arlington by then. So the Arlington Sister City Association had nothing to do with your moving to Arlington. (laugh)

Sandy – no, but had I known about the Sister City Association it might have reason enough to move to Arlington (laugh) but in fact it was because of the public school system. By then I had gotten married and we had children and wanted to live in an environment where we could raise our kids safely and comfortably. We loved Arlington. I should mention that we moved to Arlington in 1991. We already had a three-year-old, and I was pregnant with our second child.

So anyway, I met Jim at the conference. He just happened to have been placed next to me at the table we were assigned to and he began telling me about the Sister City organization. It sounded like an interesting volunteer opportunity. By that point I had already been a Girl Scout leader, but my kids had outgrown girl scouting. I loved being a volunteer so I thought it could be something I would be interested in, given my professional focus, but more at a grassroots level.
So I went to my first meeting early in 2004.

Chrystia – By that time the organization had already been in place for about 12 years, because they started in the 1990’s. In 1991 there were rumblings and by 1992 they had started doing some things.

Sandy – yes, I think some investigation into what a good sister city partner to Arlington would look like started in 1991/92 and then Aachen was explored with the relationship formalized in 1994. But I think by 1993 there was already a lot of interaction with Aachen with exchanges of delegations. In 1994 some student exchanges began to take place, and they became official partners. So, yes, when I joined in 2004 there had been a formal relationship for 10 years at that point. Within two months I had become the secretary of the organization because they had a vacancy on the board, so I started taking the minutes. Then two years later I became the chairman of the board.

Chrystia – You actually went from secretary to chairman of the board. That’s a pretty quick advance.

Sandy – (laugh) Well, it was just because no one else wanted to do it. As these things go…

Chrystia – Were you also the youngest member of the board at that time?

Sandy – maybe… no, I think Heidi Addison is younger than me. She was already on the board. I made a list of people that I knew then. I’d say that Heidi was the youngest on the board then and maybe I was next… until the San Miguel committee came along. That brought a lot of younger people onto the board – like Jose Pineda. Brendan Alexander joined, and he is definitely younger. So, yes, that’s how I became involved in sister cities.

Chrystia – That’s very interesting, and as I say it’s kind of a fit looking at your upbringing and at your interests in college. It was just made to happen pretty much, right?

Sandy – Yes, I think so too. I mean I felt very comfortable and really enjoyed my volunteer work as part of the board. All the different activities that the organization was doing were all of interest to me, and I felt I had some understanding of them. You know it is and was then mostly exchange programs for students. Bringing high school students over to the US, bringing US high school students to other countries. And the exchanges have expanded. Certainly the Ivano-Frankisvk committee has brought professionals over, and the San Miguel committee has brought sports teams over and started a summer English language program in San Miguel. So the programs have diversified quite a lot, and the period during which I was leading the organization was a really a period of growth in the organization. When I started in 2004 and became chair in 2006, we had two active partnerships. Aachen was very active and Reims had just been signed and was growing quickly.

Chrystia: And Coyoacan had by that time already gone into demise or dormancy then.

Sandy: Exactly, which is a shame. Aachen was the first sister city signed in 1994, and Coyoacan quickly after in 1996. But the relationship with Coyoacan was through the government. So it was the mayor directly leading the committee on the Coyoacan side. So when he left office, or was not re-elected to office, the new mayor had no connection to sister cities, since when a mayor turns over, the entire staff turns over and records are lost. And that was in around 2003, I think. And so the relationship died with Coyoacan for a while but it began to reemerge under the leadership of Jessica Cogen and the committee that she put together. By 2007, 2008, 2009 – somewhere in there – they began talking. I left the organization in 2010, and I think much more has happened that I don’t know much about. It just seems to be more active.

Chrystia: Well, going back a little bit. Let’s say that we go back to the beginning of Arlington sister cities, you said it was 2004 for you. At that time, was John McCracken on the board still?

Sandy: He was already gone. When I joined I think he had just died or he died shortly after. He had already left the board, certainly. I never met him.

Jack Melnick was of course on the board at that time with Jim Rowland and some of the other people that I already mentioned – Heidi Addison, Harry Amos, Karl Liewer, Wade Gregory, Karl Van NewKirk. Bernie Chapnick, Mike Ely – these are the ones from the beginning of my exposure that are still there now were there also in 2004.

Chrystia: they’ve been on for a long time.

Sandy: Yes, a long time. But we brought a lot of new people onto the board, too. Like you, maybe early on in 2005, 2006?

Chrystia: No, I think it was in 2007 by the time I came on the board because I remember distinctly our first conversation on the telephone. I called because I had looked at Arlington Sister Cities and noticed that there was a new chairperson and that sparked my interest. And so I called to the new chairperson, and she answered the phone. And I said, well, I was interested in the organization, and she said, “oh, we’re having a meeting tonight, why don’t you come?” So I didn’t think long. I went.

Sandy: I remember meeting you.

Chrystia: I was very enthusiastic about meeting you and trying to see if there would be any greater success because this was really my second attempt at trying to do something with sister cities. But at that time when I first met Jim Rowland, he was very encouraging but that encouragement unfortunately never materialized to anything concrete. And therefore it kind of, like Coyoacan, found its demise but in my heart it never did. It had to wait for a better moment and that moment came when you became chairperson. So I thank you.

Sandy: Well, you’re so welcome. When I look back on those years working on the board for sister cities I cherish certain accomplishments, and the creation of the Ivano-Frankivsk committee is one of those. And then another one that I always tell Carl Lankowski is attracting him to the board. (laugh)

Chrystia: Yes, I’m very happy about that as well.

Sandy: And Brendan Alexander and Heitham have been great additions.

Chrystia: Yes, you were very instrumental in bringing on some rather good people I believe and adding to it. Can you tell me a little bit about the time when you were the secretary? How was it then? Because I only visited several times but I really did not get a sense of it too much, only that I did not feel very welcome.

Sandy: Yes… well there was a sense that the organization was floundering a little bit at that time I would say. I’m not entirely sure why that was happening but the meetings that I attended were very small and …

Chrystia: You mean the number of board members at the meetings?

Sandy: Yes, the number of board members attending was very small. But there were a lot of activities. I would say that the activities involving Reims and Aachen remained strong and active throughout and in a sister cities organization that is a natural way to manage – that you have strong country committees that are united by a board helping to make overall decisions and set the direction for the organization. But the board itself seemed to be a little on the weak side, not well-organized or informed.

Chrystia: What were some of the activities that the board was involved in sponsoring and in doing at that time?

Sandy: I think that there was a speaker’s program and that Jim would occasionally talk to community groups about the ASCA. There was a professional exchange with Aachen happening at that time, between Arlington county and Aachen municipal employees. Most of the activities were country based so the Aachen exchanges were definitely occurring, and the Reims high school exchanges were occurring. Heidi Addison was running her elementary exchange flawlessly. But the activities were not connected to the overall organization. Each exchange was managed very independently by the person running it. So what was lacking was good communication and a way to unite the organization so that the different people who were involved in each individual activity understood the full picture of what was happening within each country and across the organization. It needed better communication to enable them to exchange ideas, attend each other’s functions and create more of a stronger central identity as an organization that would have a better chance of raising its profile in Arlington and to becoming more relevant to the community of Arlington. I think that that began to occur more after… you know, I don’t want to take credit for that…because it had to do with how the board expanded and the different people who got involved. But it did begin to move in that direction more during that time.

Chrystia: During the time that you were a chairperson…is there anything in your opinion that you did that helped foster that other than bringing to the board new members such as you mentioned who became involved and who could offer something? Or is there also something that you did to tweak it a little bit?

Sandy: Yes, well I think I’m just a pretty organized person generally, and so we began to become more consistent with when we were meeting and where we were meeting. We put together agendas in advance of meetings and issued minutes within a couple of weeks after each meeting. One of the biggest complaints early on was the lack of information about activities across the organization so it was hard to get involved, so I really focused on ways to improve information sharing. We also professionalized the organization a little bit. Instead of meeting in people’s homes which we had been doing prior, we began to meet in the community center – a public place. I think we also began to utilize our relationship with the county a little bit more effectively. The county board has always been a great supporter of the program honestly – and has provided a lot of support to the organization. I think that my experience at having managed other kinds of international exchange programs for many years by then helped me professionalize this organization a little more so that people were more interested in participating maybe because the outcome was more certain or maybe because I was willing to call and ask for help. And I did call and ask for help and called back again to make sure things were happening and see what else was needed to ensure good result. But I did it because I loved the work, and I enjoyed the people and the sense of accomplishment of seeing things getting done and people being involved and kids learning and getting excited. You know seeing real things happening and seeing the organization grow. Our membership grew quite a bit during that time, too. That had to with finding Brendan Alexander who created a functioning website for us, a way for members to enroll online, tracking our information in a much better way. Chris Williams who worked for the County and was our liaison there provided good back-up in terms of accessing county space such as the Bluemont picnic area, the meeting room at Langston-Brown, as well as taking responsibility for producing the newsletter and mailing it out. He also organized a board retreat that helped us do some important strategic planning. So a lot of hands were involved.

Chrystia: I see. You’ve said some very important things that I think might be of interest to our current board.

Sandy: Well, it is important that the leadership of the board have time to devote to it and be really good on follow through.

Christia; Yes, I think the follow through is very important, isn’t it? And you have to have that commitment which you obviously did have.

Sandy: Yes, well it became almost a second job for me, honestly. I was lucky those years, especially the first years, that I had the time and the resources to work on this. I could devote my lunch hours and other time to work on Sister city-related activities. And my work intersected with the kinds of things that the sister city committee was doing. For example, the Open World program was actually one of the projects that I was managing in my professional work and then to link in Arlington sister cities was natural.

Chrystia: I want to say that you as a chairperson may have felt some things that you wanted to realize that did not happen and possibly by reiterating it now, you may give someone a good idea to help to make it possible in the future. So if you have any thoughts on that I think that would be very wonderful if you would share that.

Sandy: Well I think the organization has moved in the direction that I felt it really needed to which was to have some paid staff. I don’t think it has very much right now but I think that the Arlington sister city association could become a financially independent NGO if it had a professional executive director. That means an investment of funds, of course. I don’t know what the budget looks like these days for the association but a person who knows what they’re doing could raise sufficient money to pay their own salary and more. This would help to grow the organization’s programs and make it into a really functioning organization. And at one time I thought that I would love to do something like that but I was moving along in my other career pretty quickly, and that turned out to be very good for me. I think Brendan would have done a great job as executive director. But I feel that it has continued to do well without a professional staff. There is a paid public relations person which has got to be helpful for generating the newsletter on a regular basis. Because it was always a challenge to get the newsletter out. But the committee-centered focus of the organization has remained, and I think that’s healthy. Still, having a stronger central administrative team, just a small one, would really stabilize operations and raise the profile of the organization and help it to grow, if it wants to grow.

Chrystia; How do you feel about growing the organization further, adding another sister city…?

Sandy: Well, five is a handful for an all-volunteer organization. I think that the future growth of the committee should continue as it has most recently which is community driven, based on interest by Arlington citizens in attaching Arlington to an overseas community that is relevant for whatever reason – its size, match to population interests in Arlington, so I would just look at demographics in Arlington and where there is enthusiasm and excitement. The interest should come from the citizens themselves and encouraged to proceed only if there is a strong core group on this side working with a committed volunteer group on the other side – which is what has happened with Ivano-Frankivsk. One reason that Coyoacan has been such a struggle is because it wasn’t done that way. Coyoacan came about because there was interest at the government level in Coyoacan in attaching itself to Arlington and vice versa without making sure that there was an active citizen group to sustain it. Arlington has a large Latino community so it made sense, but initiating a sister city partnership from the top down does not usually work in terms of sustainability. And there wasn’t enough volunteer commitment on either side. But after that … Reims came along because there was community interest on both sides. Of course, the triangle – Reims and Aachen are also sister cities – so adding Arlington to the pair made sense. But Coyoacan wasn’t like that. However, San Miguel certainly reflects that model of citizen activism and so does Ivano-Frankkivsk. So I don’t know what the next biggest immigrant community is or who might come along with excitement about building a partnership but what it takes is committed leadership on both sides at the citizen level to make this work and to sustain the relationship.

Chrystia: I see, and in terms of growing the number of members that Arlington sister city has or should have, do you see any types of activities that could be considered besides student exchanges? Because if you talk to some people they say that student exchanges are nice, but they don’t have children any longer or I no longer am interested in that. Are there other things that you see that could be very helpful and useful in growing the sister city in the eyes of Arlingtonians to make it attractive for them to become members?

Sandy: I think new program offerings were talked about sometimes while I was a member of the board. One of them that came up frequently while I was chairman and from Jack Melnick in particular was professional exchanges. For example, getting a group of Arlington, in his case lawyers together, say five or six, and putting together a trip for them to visit Aachen or Reims or both to meet with their professional counterparts to exchange perspectives and you know… going to one of our sister cities as a member of an Arlington delegation is completely different than going as a tourist. It is wonderful the kind of exposure that you get and linkages that you can make with members of our partner communities. And that has value. So I would think that if the association came up with some ideas like that that could be of interest also to members of the retirement community in Arlington – there are a lot of retired foreign service officers in Arlington and other government workers that are living in this area that might be intrigued to go on a cultural exchange to do a week of art or a week of wine tasting or champagne tasting and in Aachen maybe something historical, to look at Charlemagne’s history. But to put that together by the sister city committee and then charge a program fee. There are organizations that put together tours like this but they don’t have the access that the sister city committees have in these specific places. It would be a much better and enriching experience if the sister city committee organized it. But that takes a lot of time, as you know, to do that well – because you’ve put together tours like this. And so you’d have to find a really well-organized group of 2-3 volunteers who would work together to set up a tour and charge a fee – you’d have to run that idea through the different committees and see if someone would jump on it and say I’ll try it. A very successful example has been Bernie Chapman’s bike ride that has gone on for many years and that probably gets oversubscribed probably every year still. Bernie could probably do five bike rides per year, and they would get over-subscribed so there’s some magic there that he has found that makes that trip very attractive. The price is quite low for what’s offered and since many of same people do the trip each year, they know that the trips are well-organized and there are interesting elements in addition such as homestays besides actually riding the bikes. But Bernie is retired and is passionate about biking and about these bike tours. It’s his job practically all year long to to review the last one, test out the next one, and to go on the current one. If it were possible to find people similarly passionate about something such as art, wine, history or other things and with the time and interest to organize a tour around those themes, it could be a way to attract new people to ASCA programs.

Chrystia: Thank you very much. I think that’s very useful information and I hope to be able to share it with our colleagues on the board, etc. I do have a question for you that is in a way going back probably to the time when you just became a member of the board. I understand that the Karlspreis in Aachen was given to Bill Clinton, and Clinton gave the funds from that to the Arlington Sister city association. Can you elaborate on that in any way?

Sandy: I can’t. I don’t know much about that. It might have pre-dated me, and then I don’t know what happened to it.

Chrystia: It wasn’t a substantial amount, it was just the fact that Clinton did it in itself. I guess somebody from Arlington Sister Cities was present there, and that’s why it happened as it happened.

Sandy: That’s one of the few things that I never did go to, and I don’t even know what it’s like actually. I know people have gone before and since who would know about that. But I did go to the San Miguel carnival which was amazing. That was probably one of the most amazing trips that I’ve ever taken during my time as chair. I mean, Reims and Aachen are wonderful places, beautiful cities, and I travelled to both, including to the Joan of Arc festival which was incredible. I can’t ever forget the lunch we had with the mayor of Reims that included four different champagnes, each a different color, a different one for every course. This is at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and it was just lovely! Also the parade that we were able to observe from special seats there. The hospitality of the Reims committee was wonderful. But the San Miguel carnival trip was very unique – as a committee of the ASCA it is very different. It’s all about fundraising to help people in San Miguel, particularly kids. And so they raise a lot of money for the schools, and they donate computers, and books and backpacks full of school supplies. I was able to go on that one year when Walter Tejada went with his wife, Robin. And it was just so moving to, you know, to put together these backpacks and to be part of this contribution that was so cherished and welcomed by the parents and kids that we met at these different schools. And, you know, the excitement of the Miss Sister City competition which I was very skeptical about at first – I thought, why are we having a Miss Sister City competition? Surely the ASCA should not be involved with the stereotype of beautiful young women competing in this way. But then I understood that it was a highly effective fundraising tool, and the winner is the one who raises the most money. So it’s really not about looks, it’s about hard work – who is working the hardest to raise money. And so I could go with that. Arlington’s Miss Sister City becomes one of the carnival queens. To see her up on the stage with the queens from all over El Salvador was just a very proud moment and sitting there at Thanksgiving dinner with this huge, wonderfully decorated turkey sitting with the mayor and his wife. And of course sitting at the head table we were served first but everyone had to be served before we could start. It was just incredible. It was in a basketball court I think where the tables were set up. It was amazing.

Chrystia: It was Thanksgiving so the weather was..

Sandy: Beautiful. It was very mild. Then in the parade I rode in a very small carriage with Walter Tejada and his wife Robin. It was organized at the last minute, and we didn’t realize that we needed to have a stash of candy to throw out to the crowds. And that was a terrible omission! As we rode along everyone was wondering where are the candies from the Americans. But Walter charmed them by talking to them, and we all waved at everyone, and it was fine and memorable also. So some really great memories from those times but probably the most moving were from San Miguel.

Chrystia: That’s’ very nice to hear. Any other outstanding messages that you would like to reflect on or remember?

Sandy: Remembering again the San Miguel committee – most of its early efforts were fundraising through the Miss Sister city contest and then taking the money to San Miguel, but they also began to do exchanges towards the end of my tenure. The first thing that they did was to bring over an adult soccer team to play against in Arlington soccer team. And Walter Tejada played on that team. It was just great fun to watch the game, which Arlington lost. I was invited as the chairman of the Arlington sister city association to speak about the sister city association to the crowd, and I did it in Spanish. I wrote it up ahead of time and had it checked to make sure it was right. After that the San Miguel committee could not believe that my Spanish really wasn’t very good! So that was fun, too.

I also remember the planting of the tree for Ivano-Frankivsk in Shirlington. Chris Zimmerman and I were given shovels to start things off, and you were there and there was small chorus singing. It was very nice planting that tree.
There were some administrative things that I feel pretty good about too, not as exciting but quite interesting to work with Arlington County on strategic planning for the sister city association. We thought carefully about how to establish a clearer purpose and to move in a direction that would create a better and closer connection to the county. We worked through that whole process with involvement of many people around the county, which was exciting for me as a community member as I hadn’t been involved in that kind of community exercise before. I should probably forward that report to the current board. It had some good guidance for the direction of the organization that I think would still be relevant.

Chrystia: That would probably very useful so I would appreciate if you could forward it to the board.

Sandy: And we also had a board retreat where we talked about the role of the board and individual board members, their responsibilities and the priorities for the organization. So these were some of those strategic thinking exercises that we did while I was there. I learned a lot from those, and they were fun to organize. So… that’s all I can think of right now.

Chrystia: So I don’t know. Do you think there is anything else we should cover at this point. Is there anything more we should say or ask? What do you think?

Sandy: I would just add that I think that the Arlington sister city association is an extremely relevant and successful organization making unique and interesting contributions to Arlington – very important when you consider that Arlington considers itself to, you know, living there on the edge of Washington DC, as a world city. The ASCA helps makes that true for Arlington, I think. It definitely contributes to Arlington being connected to the rest of the world in very relevant and meaningful ways and a great example of citizen diplomacy at its best. I really think that Arlington is one of the stronger all-volunteer sister cities, and I’ve worked with a number of them through my professional career. The biggest and most active ones are actually sitting in the mayor’s office, fully staffed and managing 10 or more partnerships, but this is through paid staff. Arlington is amazing that it’s doing so much on an all-volunteer basis. So that’s something to be really proud of – that the community is generating that much learning and exchange by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Chrystia: Sandy, you mentioned that the promotion of Arlington sister cities in front of the Arlington community is there but probably needs to be enhanced a little bit. What would you suggest as a means of drawing the attention of Arlingtonians to the fact that an Arlington sister city association does exist and that they could become participants in it?

Sandy: I think that one missing element is that there isn’t a public sculpture or permanent sign visible on the street that Arlingtonians could drive by or walk by and be reminded that Arlington has a program like this with five active international partners. If a sign were situated in a park where a lot of people go, it would remind the community of Arlington that this program exists and who our partners are. With the 20 year anniversary at hand, it seems like an appropriate time to establish this and include a plaque about the founding of the organization and all of its accomplishments. I think that would be fabulous.

Chrystia: Any good ideas for a site …?

Sandy: Well, I think of Rosslyn as a central, active part of Arlington and place where lots of people congregate. There’s a park there close to the Key Bridge which could be a great site. But I think the county parks office would have good recommendations. I know at one time there was some discussion when the park next to the Clarendon metro station was redone of putting something there. But maybe the park near the Rosslyn metro is feasible. It’s a major entrance to Arlington where cars aren’t going 60 miles an hour. So it offers a concentration of people and slower traffic.

I wanted to add to that a thought I had earlier in terms of public outreach. I hope that the county fair is still a venue for the association. There’s lots of pedestrian traffic, and people looking at booths put together by a variety of Arlington organizations. It’s a great way to advertise, and we always signed up new members during that time. There is a booth and booth banner somewhere. Ingrid Kaufman had it for a while and then I think Chris Williams stored it for us.

I also think that the presidents of the different committees and certainly the board chair should speak at the Rotary Club meetings to talk about what sister cities does. When I was chair, Jack Melnick and I went to the fall budget meeting held annually by the county board. These meetings are crowded, and we stood up and asked for more money. And that year the ASCA budget went from $12K to $22. We made the case that we had grown from two sister cities to four and with that logic office we were able to get more funding. It was given to the cultural affairs office to spend on our behalf. So, I would say to look for speaking opportunities, maybe in the schools, too.

Chrystia: Well I think I will say thank you very much. It’s been very interesting, very illuminating. I do believe that I understand even more why some people call you the knight in shining armor.

Sandy: Laughs. Thank you, Chrystia. I don’t know if I deserve that. I think of you as the knight in shining armor. You know, creating a whole new program from nothing. You are an inspiration to all of us.