In the grand scheme of things, being paired with another municipality as a sister city may not seem important but Alexandria and Dundee, Scotland, are participating in exchanges that do matter.
"Because the Lord Provost is here at least once a year and we send a delegation there often, we have had some meaningful exchanges,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley.
“We have certainly sent some of our young people to Dundee and welcomed some of their young people here. This year we hope to have an exchange of medical personnel. Some folks from the oncology department at Inova Alexandria Hospital will go to Dundee to spend some time in one of their cancer research facilities and some of their folks will come here.”
John Letford is the current Lord Provost (mayor) of Dundee. He spent last week in Alexandria and participated in a number of events leading up to the Scottish Walk. Letford’s issues are very familiar to Alexandria’s elected officials.
“The major issues that we have confronted this year are the budget and schools,” Letford said. “The government has introduced a very handsome measure with regard to the building of primary schools. They have made millions of pounds available to us but only if we accept public-private partnership arrangements. That was a bit of culture shock for us as members of the Socialist Labor Party but it’s going quite well.”
THE ONE PROBLEM that arose from this was that Catholic schools were not included. “It seems to be resolving itself now but for a while that was a big problem,” Letford said.
Dundee has changed over the years from a city of construction and shipbuilding industry to one that relies more on intellectual capital today.
“We have some of the best research scientists in the world, some of them American,” Letford said. “We focus on biotechnology and digital computers. As far as the digital computers, we are leading the world in that area through one of our two universities.”
The universities are the city’s largest employers. “Between the two of them there are 20,000 students every year,” Letford said. “We are very proud of them and the changes that have been made over the last 50 years.”
Letford’s term as Lord Provost is up in May, 2003. “I have been urged to stand for election again and will likely do that,” he said.
CITY COUNCILMAN William D. Euille, one of Letford’s hosts, discussed the differences in campaigning. “Our elections are going to be held on the same day,” Euille said. “I think that the campaigning will be a bit different in Dundee than here.”
Letford philosophized about campaigning. “If you haven’t done the work during the term that you have served, for the entire time, producing signs and making speeches a few months before an election isn’t going to help,” he said.