Croatia to Yellow Springs
receive a lesson in local government
hosted a group of Croatian mayors who toured Village faclities and
met with the staff Monday and Tuesday, Dec.2 and 3. The group included
Mato Bilonjic, Milan Dukic, Branko Eremic and Mike Jerosimic, who
discussed police matters with cheif Jim Miller Tuesday morning.
Yellow Springs made
an appearance on the world stage this week, as four mayors from Croatia
visited here, meeting with Village officials and staff as part of a program
designed to increase international understanding.
The programs purpose is to increase global peace by having
one-on-one meetings between individuals, said Marianne Crotty, director
of international programs for the International Visitors Council of Greater
Cincinnati, the nonprofit organization that sponsored the groups
visit. This year the Council, with partial funding by the U.S. Department
of State, has sponsored visits to the United States by 40 different groups
of local officials from Eastern Europe, Africa and the Mideast.
Its a wonderful program, Crotty said. When different
groups come in from around the world, they see what Americans are really
about. It helps with distorted perceptions.
During their visit here, the Croatian mayors said, they have been surprised
by how safe they feel in this country and by how warmly theyve been
Everything we know about the States we learn from TV. We had the
impression that as soon as you step outside your house youll be
murdered or robbed, Mato Bilonjic said through one of the groups
two interpreters. Bilonjic said the group also didnt realize how
hospitable people are. Americans have a lot of smiles.
In Yellow Springs Monday evening and all day Tuesday, the group, which
also included Milan Dukic, Branko Eremic and Mile Jerosimic, heard a presentation
on local government by Village Council president Tony Arnett, attended
part of the Village Council meeting, met with Village Manager Rob Hillard,
Police Chief Jim Miller and Clerk of Courts June Allison, and visited
the water and wastewater treatment plants and the public works facility.
Most interesting, they said, was attending the Village Council meeting
Monday. While their towns also have governing councils, the boards tend
to be much larger and to be dominated by party politics, said Bilonjic.
He said he also found it useful to meet Chief Miller and see that enforcing
laws was only a part of his job. Hes a person who loves this
town and is trying to do whats best for it, Bilonjic said.
At home in Croatia, the mayors are working to help their towns rebuild
from the war with neighboring Serbia, which took place from 1991 to 1995.
Much of the countrys infrastructure was destroyed, said Bilonjic,
and many refugees still havent returned home. The war intensified
problems the country was already experiencing as it shifted from communism
Its a big transition, and at the same time we ended up in
a war, he said. We hope for a better future.
The trips organizers hope that the mayors will return home with
some new ideas to help rejuvenate the countrys economy, said Crotty.
In the United States for three weeks, the group has already visited Washington,
D.C., Columbia, S.C., and Bluefield, W.Va. The mayors will next visit
Santa Fe, N.M.
The group visited Dayton, said Crotty, because the Croatians wanted
to come to the city in which the Dayton Accord was signed. Because
the Croatians are all mayors of small towns, organizers wanted them to
visit a similar size town and chose Yellow Springs to provide them an
opportunity to be in a unique, multicultural town, she said.
The Croatians visit did appear, in a small way, to have increased
understanding between two countries that, not that long ago, saw each
other as enemies.
You can rest assured that we will tell our citizens about the warmth
of your people, said Bilonjic.