By James BrooksDecember 13, 2018
VICENZA, Italy (Dec. 13, 2018) - U.S. Army Garrison Italy brought together more than 20 mayors from cities and towns around the garrison for a third Mayors Summit on Dec. 11 to discuss community concerns and share ideas to better integrate Soldiers and their families into life in Italy.
Mayors Summits began earlier this year as part of a larger Community Alliance Partnership strategy to further strengthen the legacy of good Italian-American relations that began nearly 70 years ago. Today, approximately 15,000 Soldiers, Army civilians and their families live in Vicenza and neighboring towns within a 30-minute drive to the installation. In addition to quarterly Mayors Summits, garrison tenant military units are matched with local communities for a continuing face-to-face familiarity between Americans and Italians.
"We are growing together, and contributing to the well-being of our life here. I emphasize "our" because we have come a long way with the US community. I hope we will continue pursuing the same objectives for many years to come," said Roberto Ciambetti, Chairman of the Veneto Region Council. "The periodic meetings with Mayors are an important moment to assess, share ideas, and defuse potential misunderstandings. They also help lay the foundations for that process of living together and mutual understanding where were enrich one another through cultural exchanges and ongoing dialogues."
USAG Italy Community Relations and Media Officer Anna Ciccotti is responsible for coordinating the Community Alliance Plan among more than 30 Italian cities and 11 military commands. Many city requests and concerns land on her desk to coordinate with garrison leadership, including the Italian Base Commander.
"There has been a growing interest from the Mayors to attend these meetings since the first one we held in March. They appreciate the opportunity to have a regular forum for engaging the post leadership and sharing updates, challenges and best practices," she said.
The third mayors' summit agenda included a discussion on improving trash and recycling practices by American families living in Italian communities and commercial vehicle parking problems near the garrison.
USAG Italy Housing Director Lewis Smith shared waste collection and recycling information specific to each of the more than two dozen communities where Soldiers and their families live.
"Every community is different with different color trash and recycling containers and different days of trash pick-up. We need to keep educating our American community that when you don't dispose of your trash and recycle, you not only will get fined by the community but your actions reflect negatively on all military families," said Smith.
Mayors were also given a tour of the garrison's emergency operations center and a presentation on how Army officials work together in local crisis like flooding caused by heavy rains two months ago.
"The mayors are very concerned about making sure American families are kept informed and know what to do in a crisis which is a challenge given language barriers. We introduced them to the garrison's Italian liaison officer who reports directly to the local emergency operations center and works directly with ours. We also explained the process for requesting American assistance and role of the U.S. Embassy and senior Army leaders in Europe in that process," said USAG Italy Operations Specialist Antonio Quaglia.
Garrison Commander Col. Erik M. Berdy launched the concept of a Community Alliance Partnership and quarterly Mayors Summits a year ago. But finding time on the schedules of military leaders and elected officials where they can all meet for these discussions can be a challenge. With that in mind, Berdy asked the group for feedback. Are these gatherings worth it? Are once-a-quarter meetings too much? Should the leaders continue to meet?
The response to continue holding quarterly meetings was unanimous.
"I want to give special thanks to my fellow mayors who attended and to USAG Italy staff for their attention and competence. I also want to give a sincere and heartfelt thank you to the garrison commander Col. Berdy for his continued commitment to listening and sharing common issues as they emerge but above all, for his tireless search for a quick and concrete resolution of the problems. The work of the Army garrison is a good indicator for an ever growing integration of the Italian and American communities and for an ever more friendly and productive partnership," said Nicola Ferronato, Mayor of Caldogno.
Mayor of Isola Vicentina and Vicenza province Head Councilman for Tourism and Cultural Affairs Francesco Enrico Gonzo agreed with his colleague.
"The Mayors Summits promoted by Col. Berdy are characterized by a clear and explicit desire, almost a need, for greater concreteness in the relations between the American and local communities from Vicenza. We Mayors, who represent the host nation, can respond to this need. It's only through these meetings where a mutual exchange of information and shared necessities brings us together to enhance the integration of our communities."