Two Kenai dignitaries departed for a two-week socioeconomic exchange visit to the Russian Far East.
City council member and Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Executive Director Linda Swarner and First National Bank Kenai Branch Manager Jason Carroll left Kenai on Monday evening, headed for Bolshoy Kamen, Russia.
The exchange visit is part of a Russia Far East-Alaska CityLinks Program sponsored by the International City-County Management Association. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Swarner said she is “very excited” about the trip and expects to find out what their economy is like and to offer assistance in the area of community and economic development to the rural Russian community.
Swarner takes with her 18 years of experience on the Kenai council and as a member of the Alaska Municipal League, where she has served on subcommittees on legislative activity and economic development and resources.
“This is a two-way street,” Swarner said, adding she expects to learn a lot from Bolshoy Kamen officials.
Kenai is partnered with Bolshoy Kamen, a city closed since 1947, when it was built to support a Russian navy ship and submarine manufacturing plant and shipyard.
The city of 40,000 recently became open to domestic and international affairs and has been the site of several international conferences on dismantling nuclear arms.
The CityLinks partnership calls for an exchange of technical information, management practices and assistance in community and economic development to improve the quality of life in the communities.
Following an inauguration conference in Khabarovsk, Russia, Swarner and Carroll will travel to Bolshoy Kamen to begin meetings with its mayor, finance and budgeting office, public works, planning and other relevant municipal departments, and with the private sector.
This summer, dignitaries from Russia are to visit Kenai as part of the exchange.
Officials from Anchorage, Juneau and Wasilla also are partnering with other Russia Far East cities in the CityLinks program.
The ICMA CityLinks Program is sponsored by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and ICMA is paying for all travel expenses for Kenai officials to visit Bolshoy Kamen.
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