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Jan. 3, 2006

Mayors from Georgian Republic Visit Oswego County

OSWEGO - The term "global village" took on new meaning recently when a delegation of mayors from the Republic of Georgia visited village, city and county government offices in Oswego County.

The visit was arranged by the U.S. Department of State through the International Center of Syracuse.

The mayors of five Georgian cities spent a day in Oswego County, meeting with county government leaders and elected officials in the village of Phoenix and the city of Fulton. They included Berdo Asanishvili, mayor of Sighnaghi; Goderdzi Berberashvili, mayor of Dusheti; Zaza Berelidze, acting mayor of Oni; Levan Kokorashvili, mayor of Kvareli; and Tamaz Petriashvili, mayor of Akhaltsikhe.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson, County Treasurer John Kruk, Undersheriff Robert Lighthall, Elections Commissioner Donald Wart, and Promotion and Tourism Director Christine Gray spent part of the afternoon with the group, explaining how their departments work and answering questions about county government and the local community.

Legislature Chairman Johnson welcomed the mayors to Oswego County. He discussed the role of the County Legislature and explained that each of the 25 members of the Legislature represents about 4,000 citizens.

"As elected leaders of their respective cities, they handle many of the same types of responsibilities and challenges that we do in Oswego County," said Legislature Chairman Johnson. "The goal of the international visitor program is to strengthen relations between the U.S and other countries by building on citizen diplomacy and international understanding."

Kruk said the project is a "goodwill" endeavor that allows local leaders to share information with international visitors. Kruk frequently assists the International Center of Syracuse by arranging for foreign visitors to meet Oswego County government officials, depending on their needs and interests. He said that visitors from the former U.S.S.R. and other Asian nations are often interested in how local governments function in the U.S. While in the Syracuse area, the delegation from Georgia also met with environmental activists, labor leaders, small business developers, religious leaders, and others.

The republic of Georgia is undergoing rapid changes and the visiting mayors had several questions about the structure of county government, voter registration, voter turnout, and tourism promotion.

Georgia became an independent nation only 14 years ago, following the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Citizens elect a president by popular vote. Located on the Black Sea, it contains ancient cities and is considered a lovely region. Winemaking is a major industry. However, the nation faces a number of environmental problems including air and soil pollution, and pollution of major rivers and the Black Sea on its southwestern border.

Joseph Corso, president of the International Center's board of directors, said the visits are organized to "increase mutual understanding through communication at personal and professional levels. Participants are established or potential foreign leaders who are selected by American embassies overseas to visit the U.S., meet and confer with their professional counterparts, and experience this country firsthand."

Two interpreters from the U.S. Department of State accompanied the mayors from Georgia.

For more information, contact the International Center of Syracuse at 471-0252.



Oswego County Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson gives a hearty welcome to a group of mayors from the Republic of Georgia. Their visit was arranged by the International Center of Syracuse and the U.S. State Department. Looking on are County Treasurer John Kruk and Undersheriff Robert Lighthall.

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