Westlake 'sister cities' celebrate fourth anniversary

From left, Brett Luengo, Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny, Ann O'Donnell, Westlake Ward 4 Councilmember Michael O'Donnell and the prime ministerís daughter, Aoibhinn Kenny, at the Rose of Tralee International Festival Rose Ball on Aug. 17.

The “Sister Cities” relationship between the city of Westlake and the town of Tralee, Ireland, has officially celebrated its fourth anniversary. In 2009, Mayor Dennis Clough and Council President Michael Killeen, together with Brett Luengo, Director of Westlake World Partners Co., established the partnership with Tralee in County Kerry. That year, Mayor Clough, Planning Director Bob Parry and Luengo traveled to Tralee demonstrating Westlake’s commitment to helping both municipalities learn about serving citizens in troubled economic times.

In 2011, Tralee’s Mayor, Grace O’Donnell, and County Kerry Tourism Officer, John Griffin, came to Westlake in order to celebrate the Westlake Bicentennial. This year Luengo, and Westlake Councilman Michael O’Donnell and his family traveled to Tralee at their own expense, to continue the tradition. While in Tralee, Westlake’s delegation met with the new Mayor Johnnie Wall and town council and Kerry County officials to discuss tourism, energy conservation and business development.

The trip to Ireland was a first for O’Donnell and his family. His two days in Tralee were busy with an official council meeting, learning about a local wetlands project and economic funding plans. He also explored opportunities to work together on educational, business, non-profit, historical and cultural levels.

O’Donnell’s interest was in energy efficiency and recycling, and learning about options for project funding sources. Tralee Town Clerk Mike Scannell and Griffin shared their focus on building relationships with global businesses and brokering civic partnerships. Similarly, Westlake has established positive working relationships with local businesses like Hyland Software, Crocker Park, Energizer, Nordson and, most recently, American Greetings.

The trip was not all business. O’Donnell, his wife, Ann, and daughters Jackie and Katie together with Luengo were invited guests to the Rose of Tralee International Festival including the “Rose of Tralee Ball.” At the festival, 32 girls representing Irish communities all over the world competed for a chance to become the “2012 Rose of Tralee.” The Rose Festival was a tradition started in Tralee over 50 years ago and celebrates a love story of a local Irish girl and her boyfriend. This year the 2012 Rose was a young woman from Luxembourg who had her family roots in County Cork, Ireland.

At a private reception during the Rose Festival, the Westlake contingent was formally introduced to the Prime Minister of Ireland, Edna Kenny. The Prime Minister and the O’Donnells became fast friends when they learned their roots were all from County Mayo. Luengo and O’Donnell will have another opportunity to meet the Prime Minister when he visits Greater Cleveland next month.

Prime Minister Kenny will be the guest of honor of the Greater Cleveland Mayo Society’s Mayo Ball to be held at La Centre in Westlake on Oct. 13. According to Gerry Quinn, president of the Mayo Society, “This is the first time a prime minister of Ireland will be visiting our great city!”

While in Ireland, O’Donnell was constantly asked about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. The Republic of Ireland is predominantly Democrat by U.S. standards and the Irish prospered during the Clinton years. This year, the economy of Ireland is at almost double the unemployment levels of the U.S.

Even though the United States and Ireland are experiencing economic difficulties, it is a consolation to know that public officials on all levels are working together to explore new ways to better serve their communities in the future.

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Volume 4, Issue 20, Posted 10:23 AM, 10.02.2012