Establishing the Fort Wayne’s Fourth Sister City 

By Jenning Li


I. Foreword

On May 10, 2012, the cities of Fort Wayne and Taizhou signed an agreement making Taizhou, China the fourth sister city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The process in establishing the fourth sister city had many twists and turns: it spanned over three years, during which there were city switching and a mayoral election. Many people were involved in the progression.


II. Prologue

Right after the New Year of 2009, I received a call from Mark Seele (Mark), the principal of Maple Creek Middle School of Northwest Allen County. A middle school principal from China Shenyang No. 134 Middle School was scheduled to visit Maple Creek for a week at the end of February. Mark needed a host family, a translator and a driver for the Chinese principal, Wu Yan.

Fortunately, Yanni Qu, the principal of the Fort Wayne Chinese School, offered to serve as a host family; volunteers, Zhanfu Duan and Anna Gong, provided the principal with daily rides to school; and Kelia Li, a 14-year-old student attending Maple Creek, served as a full-time translator.

Kelia learned her Chinese in a Chinese school at Naperville, Illinois for 3 years starting at age seven. She did not think her Chinese language is very useful until she became the center in her school in that week. The Journal Gazette reported on March 9, 2009 with the beginning says” Kelia Li led her charge around Maple Creek Middle School on Tuesday, introducing her to a new world….”.

Mark scheduled a meeting between the Chinese principal and the Fort Wayne mayor, Thomas Henry, on March 4, 2009. The Following people attended this meeting: Stanley Barker (Stan B.), president of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International (SCI) that time; Toyoharu Tamura, a board member of SCI; Zenovia Pearson (Zenovia), mayor’s Liaison that time; Mark Seele, and Jenning Li.

During this meeting, I suggested to establish a sister city for Fort Wayne in China due to the country’s recent economic booming as well as its unique cultural aspects. Mayor Henry agreed with me and gave instructions that our new sister city relationship should pay first consideration on improving people’s prosperity by increasing job opportunities for our local residents. Zenovia had visited China years ago and had thoroughly enjoyed her China trip. She expressed her strong supports in developing such a relationship with a city in China.           


III. The Beginning Stage: Year of 2009

A. Initial Contacts

After the meeting in March, I started in search for prospective cities in China. Based on Mayor Henry’s instruction on economy, I concentrated on the cities where close to Shanghai, the economical center of China. Another principle is to look for prefecture leveled cities. Since Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, only a prefecture city in China can match with Fort Wayne in political status.

Around 10 letters were sent to Chinese city mayors and their city’s Foreign Affairs Offices (FAO). I received replies from three cities: Huai’an, Nantong and Suqian. Since Huai’an gave the most enthusiastic and active responses among three, and moreover, it was my mother’s hometown, I reported Huai’an to Zenovia in May.


B. Two Mayors Meeting in Shanghai

Zenovia notified me on June 23, 2009 for that Mayor Henry would be leading a delegation going to Japan on September 9 and would have a private trip to China from September 14th to 18th. She asked me if it would be possible to meet someone from Huai’an at Shanghai and if someone from Huai’an could contact her directly.

Huai’an side expressed welcome and invited our delegation to visit Huai’an. Sun Xing, the deputy director of Huai’an FAO, had a telephone conversation with Zenovia later to confirm the trip.

An error happened at this point. The delegation was going to be in China only September 17th and 18th. Both Sun Xing and I were misinformed. On September 14, 2009, Sun Xing called me for where my mayor was. I was in China at that time and asked him to contact with Zenovia. However, Sun Xing could not reach Zenovia on the 15th. Then, what next?

Sun Xing requested for help from Beijing. The General Tourist Bureau of China checked the records for all foreigners had arrived and would arrive in China with names of Thomas Henry, Zenovia Pearson and Stanley Barker. Fortunately, Thomas Henry was found the only correct name listed in one travel agency and was scheduled going to Beijing on September 17th and to Shanghai on September 18th. Then, we could set up the connection with the Fort Wayne delegation through the travel agency. 

A formal meeting was held on the morning of September 18th in Shanghai between mayors of Fort Wayne and Huai’an. Both sides introduced general situations on city administrations, juridical systems, educations, cultures and economies; expressed interests on further developing bilateral relationships; found a common interest on economical collaborations to create more job opportunities for both cities; exchanged written documents and invited each other to have official visits at earliest possible date.

The Fort Wayne participates are as follows: Mayor Henry and his wife Cindy, Rick Briley (Rick), Lucy Collins-Briley (Lucy), Jerry Henry, Steven McElhoe and Jenning Li. In attendance from Huai’an: Gao Xunkun (mayor); Shi Guojun (Vice Mayor); Wang Lili (Director of FAO); Sun Xing; a director from Huai’an Television; a writer from Huai’an newspaper; and Hao Meng (Translator).

After the meeting, Huai’an hosted a grand lunch at the 5-star hotel, the Purple Golden Hotel. Huai’an provided a unique kind of strong liquor produced in Huai’an city. People both parties were very happy about this meeting.  

The Journal Gazette reported the mayor’s trip to China on September 24, 2009. The possibility of establishing a sister city in China was, for the first time, publicly presented to the people in Fort Wayne area.


C. Deputy Mayor of Fort Wayne Visited Huai’an

On October 19, 2009, Zenovia informed me with an email that deputy mayor of Fort Wayne would be visiting China in November. She said Mayor Henry advised her to let me involved in contacting with Huai’an to arrange such a visit.  

Deputy Mayor of Fort Wayne, Greg Purcell (Greg), toured the city of Huai’an on November 16, 2009. He also had a meeting with the vice mayor of Huai’an, Shi Guojun. The FAO of Huai’an hosted a dinner that day. 

In this delegation to China, other members included the chancellor of Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne University (IPFW), Mike Wartell and two IPFW professors, Lidan Lin and Frank Paladino. This trip also made visits to many of the other cities in China. It significantly influenced IPFW’s decision to start accepting students directly from China and to initiate other educational exchanges later. 


D. Two Professors from IPFW Visited Huai’an

Greg notified me on December 2, 2009 that Professors Jun Ma and Bill Todorovic from IPFW were going to Huaiyin Normal University in Huai’an for a visit requested by Chancellor Wartell.

The two professors arrived in Huai’an on December 27, 2009. They visited the university and the city business incubator, an establishment comparable to the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne. The vice mayor of Huai’an hosted a dinner for them.

Fort Wayne Business Weekly reported the professors’ trip to Huai’an in the January of 2010.


IV. The Middle Stage Development: the Year of 2010


A. Joining in Fort Wayne Sister Cities International

After returning from Huai’an, Greg contacted me on November 12, 2009 and asked if I would like to join in the SCI. At that time, I did not know much about the SCI but send my resume later to him as requested. Greg recommended me into the SCI in December.

Stan B., Tomas Herr (Tom) and Gabriel Delobbe (Gabe) interviewed me in Auburn, Indiana on January 14, 2010. Stan B. was the SCI president; Tom was the chairman of the SCI Nomination Committee. Gabe was chairman of the SCI Japan Committee and had served as the board of director since the founding of SCI.

Apparently, the interview was a good one. The SCI board meeting on February approved me as a new board of director. Suddenly, I found myself encouraged, amidst so many similar minds.


B. Plock, Poland is both Sister City of Fort Wayne and Huai’an

Plock, Poland has been one of 3 sister cities of Fort Wayne for 20 years. Through our communications, Sun Xing knew it and wrote me on March 15, 2010 as follows:

 “It's really a surprise for us to know that Plock and Fort Wayne are sister cities. It's fantastic and we are so glad to see that three cities become sister cities in the near future!

Our Mayor Gao Xuekun will visit Plock later by the end of June”.

Mayor Henry led a delegation from Fort Wayne including Stanley Podzielinski (Stan P), to Plock from May 6 to 9, 2010. The mayor of Huai’an also went to Plock by the end of following months to sign an agreement to be sister cities. The mayor of Plock led a 30 people delegation to Fort Wayne in July for a 20-year anniversary.  

The coincidence of this situation was remarkable. It allowed a number of people from both Fort Wayne and Huai’an to strengthen their ties of friendship through our common sister city of Plock.

When our SCI delegation visited Huai’an in September 2011, Stan P. met many old friends from Plock there. Although Fort Wayne did not select Huai’an to be our sister city in China, we still have ties with Huai’an through our common sister city of Plock.


C. Huai’an Failed to Visit Fort Wayne in 2010 as Planned

In early April of 2010, when Hao Meng from Huai’an FAO prepared a proposal to form a delegation to visit Fort Wayne in September, she met a problem. She needed confirmations from Fort Wayne on signing of a Letter of Intent for her application for the expenses of the traveling delegation.

With the help from Lucy and Rick, I had a short meeting with Mayor Henry on April 22, 2010. This meeting includes Rick, Lucy and Kerri Przemielewski (Kerri), the new city mayor’s liaison.

Mayor Henry answered 3 questions from Huai’an: 1) Fort Wayne would not visit Huai'an this year as our Deputy Mayor was there half a year ago, 2) Fort Wayne would welcome any delegation from Huai’an to visit here with September or October being good good times. 3) Fort Wayne agreed to sign the Letter of Intent. However, this signed letter is in leading to, but not necessary to, formal sister cities.

Stan B. and Tom met with Mayor Henry and Kerri on April 28th. Stan B. said, Letter of Intent is possible and is usual, it likes engagement of marriage. At this meeting, it was agreed on the next step, the exchange of Letter of Intent. Kerri sent an invitation to Huai’an on April 29, 2010 for their visiting Fort Wayne soon.

A group of people at Huai'an (similar to our SCI) held a meeting on August 19th. There they advised their mayor to postpone the visit to Fort Wayne due to the large areas flooded in China in that summer. They suggested at the time a trip to the U.S. was not right politically, and they suggested that instead, the money for travel should be donated as part of disaster relief to the inundated areas.

Flood in Zhouqu area in China took over 1500 lives that summer. Huai'an means the peace of Huai River. In its history, this city got flood from Huai River once a while. Once it suffered flood, it always got supports from other areas of China. This is the reason that they said "not right politically”.

Sun Xing from Huai’an sent an email to Kerri on August 29th to postpone visiting Fort Wayne to next year. Kerri responded on September 7th with following points: 1) we wound welcome their delegation to visit Fort Wayne in next year, 2) our mayor would sign the Friendship Agreement when they came, and 3) if everything goes well, our mayor would go Huai’an to sign the sister city agreement in the year of 2011.

If Huai’an had made the Fort Wayne visit in 2010, history would have changed.


D. Courier to Huai’an

After receiving news of the postponement, I decided to go to Huai’an. My main purpose was to investigate the possibility of business connections and to find out whether the leadership of Huai’an had changed their minds. I shared my ideas with Stan B and Kerri. 

This was a visit I undertook as a private citizen and not of some official capacity. Suggested by Stan B. and helped by Kerri, Mayor Henry signed a letter for me taking to Huai’an. The letter asked them to visit Fort Wayne in next April or May if possible.

I was in Huai’an from October 27th through the 30th and delivered the letter from Mayor Henry to the Huai’an mayor. I also stopped at Huaiyin Normal University, Huaigang Special Steel Company, a trading company, and a few government bureaus that emphasized economy and business. My report of this trip was submitted in the SCI board meeting in December.

The leadership of Huai’an assured their willing to develop sister city with Fort Wayne. The mayor of Huai’an said he would reply Mayor Henry’s letter. His letter reached Fort Wayne on December 21st. In this letter from Mayor Gao, he wished Mayor Henry and the people of Fort Wayne a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and said that he looked forward to visiting Fort Wayne in the year of 2011.


V. Decisive Moves in the Middle Stage: the Year of 2011


A. Mayor Henry Had a Speech for the Chinese New Year 

The Chinese Lunar New Year comes after the Solar New Year. As a matter of fact, many presidents of countries worldwide, including the U.S., have given special speeches for the Chinese New Year. Since the setting up a sister city with a Chinese city was on track, the Fort Wayne Chinese community needed to become a part of the process.   

Since founded in 1991, the Fort Wayne Chinese Family and Friend Association (FWCFFA) has celebrated the Chinese New Year every year with a party. I coordinated with main leaders in the FWCFFA. FWCFFA sent an invitation to Mayor Henry for the Chinese New Year. This invitation was delivered through the help of Lucy. Mayor Henry was pleased to accept the invitation right away.     

On February 5, 2011, Mayor Henry, Rick, Stan B. and Gabe showed up at the Chinese New Year party, which hosted over 350 people. Mayor Henry gave his Chinese New Year greetings in a speech, and he introduced the progress on the development of the sister city with Huai’an and posed an interesting question: why is there no cat in the Chinese zodiac?

This was the first time in Fort Wayne Chinese history that the mayor of Fort Wayne participated in the Chinese New Year party. Many people heard about a possible sister city in China for the first time at the party. In response to the news, the Chinese community showed enthusiasm and support for a sister city relationship starting from this point on. 


B. Mayor of Huai’an Visited Fort Wayne

On Valentine Day of 2011, Sun Xing told me his mayor would certainly visit Fort Wayne that year. He selected the date to inform me with intentions. Sun Xing sent an email later to Kerri with an attachment of a letter signed by Mayor Gao from Huai’an. In this letter, the mayor asked if July was a good time.

Kerri replied on April 5, 2011, suggesting that the week of July 11 or July 18 would work best. She also asked what areas and topics he would like to discuss during his visit and expressed once again that we would look forward to his visit.

Huai’an replied saying that they would like to discuss with Mayor Henry about future exchanges and collaborations between our two cities, especially in regards to cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, enterprise, urban planning, hospital exchanges, youth exchanges, etc.

A formal invitation letter was issued from the City of Fort Wayne on April 27, 2011. This letter listed 6 people include Mayor Gao, Director of Urban Planning, Director of Commerce Bureau, Magistrate of Xuyi County, Director of Investment, Vice Director of Economic Development Zone.

In early June, Huai’an gave us the schedule of July 13th and 14th in Fort Wayne. Kerri scheduled the delegation to meet with the Mayor Henry on July 14th from 10am to 11am and to sign the Letter of Intent. Elissa McGauley (Elissa), City Economic Development Specialist, and I arranged a lunchtime meeting in the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Fort Wayne from 11:30am to 1 pm on July 14th. We had also arranged the delegation to visit a few large local companies for the reminder of time.

Because of issues on visas and flights, Sun Xing notified Kerri and me on June 21st for that the schedule has to be changed to July 14th and 15th. We replied on June 30th that the Chamber of Commerce was still willing to host a luncheon and that our mayor would still hold a meeting with the delegation to sign the Letter.

However again, an emergency scheduling change came from Sun Xing on July 1, 2011. His mayor could only stay in Fort Wayne for 5 hours from 3:00PM to 8:00PM on July 14, 2011 due to the hardships pressing from the province of Jiangsu in China. To come to Fort Wayne, the delegation would have to rent a private jet for a direct flight from Los Angles to Fort Wayne.

Although both Sun Xing and Wang Lili from Huai’an apologized for the abrupt schedule change, Kerri could not find any available time that afternoon for Mayor Henry to hold the formal meeting to sign the Letter. Moreover, the Chamber could not hold its meeting there. Kerri told them the facts on July 7th, and informed them that Mayor Henry could meet the Huai’an delegation at dinner and exchange letters of friendship. Huai’an replied that they understood.

In June, Tom asked me to prepare a detailed itinerary to distribute to all SCI board members include all of the China Committee members. The order was carried out and the itinerary was provided to all board members. The event was very smoothly thanks to many SCI volunteers involved.  

On July 14th, Elissa, Noel Knox (Noel), Doug Ahlfeld (Doug), Jun Ma and I welcomed the arriving delegation at Fort Wayne International Airport. Doug and Jun provided rides for the delegation. The delegation toured neighborhood of Sycamore Hills, the Allen County Public Library, and the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

The library tour was a pleasant one. The delegation saw historical photos took by Gabe for the sister cities in Poland, Japan and Germany. Mayor Gao wrote "Friendship Forever" and signed his name. All of the delegation members also placed their signatures. Then, we saw the authentic treasures in the library’s collection: letters and staffs that President Lincoln had used.

City of Fort Wayne hosted the dinner. Mayor Henry conversed with the Mayor Gao in the dinner. Gifts were exchanged. Both mayors talked in a good atmosphere. Mayor Henry originally planned to leave at 6:30 pm, but he postponed his another activity and left instead at 7:30 pm. When exchanging documents, Huai'an handed Mayor Henry an invitations to attend their friendship city conference in September.


C. Taizhou Comes

In November 2010, the governor of Indiana visited Zhejiang province in China, the sister province of Indiana since 1987. John Sampson (John), the CEO of Northeast Indiana Regional Partners, was one of the delegation members. During this visit, he received words that the city of Taizhou was interested in forming a sister city relationship with Fort Wayne.

John passed the message to Kerri after returning to Fort Wayne. And John passed the message to me on December 14, 2010.

The leadership of SCI changed at the beginning of 2011. Tom became the president of SCI, and he created the China Committee in early February of 2011. Members were Kerri, Stan B., Dorothy Kittaka (Dorothy), Carol Jackson (Carol), Steve Kucharski, Scott Naltner (Scott), Dennis Kelly (Dennis), John, Elissa, and Jenning Li.

The first meeting of the China committee was held on February 17, 2011. Dennis specially came from Indianapolis to give us a presentation about the Zhejiang province, city of Taizhou, economical connections in history between Zhejiang province and the state of Indiana, and other about 10 sister cities linked Zhejiang and Indiana.  

The issue of choosing Huai’an or Taizhou was discussed in the SCI board meeting on March 2, 2011. Board members were split. Tom concluded: Because we did not have any direct contact with Taizhou yet and Huai'an said to come to Fort Wayne last year but did not happen, we would keep open to contact with both cities. This conclusion would be reported to Mayor Henry.

Dennis went to Zhejiang province in April 2011. He discussed the Fort Wayne - Taizhou sister cities possibility with the provincial government, FAO. And he brought the message from Taizhou that they would send a delegation to Fort Wayne later that year. 

Otto Chang (Otto), the Dean of School of Business in IPFW, visited Taizhou in early June, 2011 and he contacted with a city officer about the sister city relationship.

There was an Indiana Sister State Symposium with Zhejiang Province of China at Indianapolis on July 18th; the Chinese had a large delegation with over 100 people. At this symposium, Dennis arranged a meeting between Fort Wayne and Taizhou.

The Fort Wayne group had Dennis, Kerri, Carol, John, Scott, Elissa, Ole and Jenning there. The Taizhou group had Pan Xuhui, director of Taizhou Foreign Trade Bureau; Miao Yaochang, Vice Director of Taizhou Foreign Investment Center; and other CEOs from eight various companies in Taizhou area.

John and Scott made the case for investing in Northeast Indiana with industry and manufacturing, while Carol represented Fort Wayne Sister Cities' interest in exploring a sister city relationship with student exchanges. People from Taizhou did not know about the sister city relationship yet but they expressed to support it and they were looking for any business opportunity with Fort Wayne. Director Pan said he would report this meeting to his mayor when he returned to China.


D. Fort Wayne Delegation from SCI visited Huai’an

During two mayor’s meeting on July 14th, Mayor Gao had given an invitation to Mayor Henry for an international friendship city conference in Huai’an from September 21st to the 23rd in 2011. This invitation stated that Huai’an would cover all accommodation costs when the delegation arrived in Huai’an.  

Mayor Henry responded to the invitation with a formal letter on July 29, 2011. Due to mayoral election in the coming November, he could not go to Huiai’an in September.

 In the FWSCI board meeting on August 3rd , the board approved to send a delegation to Huai'an. Tom appointed Renee Riecke (Renee) as the delegation head to go to Huai'an. She is one of SCI board of directors. I organized this delegation for members, visas and traveling co-ordinations.

The delegation was composed of following people: Renee; Cheryl L. Ferverda, a manger of Allen County Public Library; Karl R. LaPan, CEO of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center; Noel, SCI Board of Director; Deb Neumeyer, principal of Carroll High School; Stan  P., SCI Board of Director; Eugenia Podzielinski; Craig Podzielinski; and Jenning Li.

During the three days in Huai’an, we had a Forum on Eco-Economy & Cooperation among Friendly Cities. Renee and other city representatives signed the Signature of the Joint Declaration. We visited the Huai’an Urban Planning Museum, the Journey to the West Museum, the Huaiyang Cuisine Museum and the Canal Transportation Museum. We also visited the Former Residence of Mr. Zhou Enlai, the Huai’an Steel & Iron Group, the Qingjiang Middle School, the Experimental Primary School and the College Park. One evening, we attended a gala comparable to the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics.

We met many people from Japan, Algeria, Germany, Russia, Romania, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and so on. One officer, Sam Goffman, from the U.S. Consulate General at Shanghai met us in Huai’an since he grew up in Muncie, Indiana, and he wanted to meet some Hoosiers in Huai’an. Stan P. met his friends from Plock, Poland. 

This was an extraordinary fantastic trip. After seeing so many interesting places, all of our delegation members were convinced to support Huai’an as our new sister city. 


E. Mayoral Election

As a tradition, SCI organizes the International Film Festival once a year. A Chinese film was presented for the first time in the festival on October 26, 2001. In the opening speech, I asked for the audience to support Mayor Henry in the coming mayoral election. This came from my heart because if Mayor Henry lost the election, all the steps made in the past two years towards establishing a Chinese sister city could be demolished. 

Local newspaper reported on November 9, 2011 as “City voters once again looked past party labels and demonstrated their independence Tuesday, retaining the Democratic mayor….The victory was a triumph for Henry, but for city voters as well…”


F. Mayor’s Delegation Visited Taizhou.

Kerri notified me in early August of 2011 that Mayor Henry would lead a delegation to visit Taizhou in November, and she asked me if I wanted to join the delegation.

When I came back from Huai’an, I called Miao Yaochang in Taizhou. He stated clearly that the mayor of Taizhou would not meet with our mayor in November and that Taizhou would not cover the costs for hotels and transportations for our delegation. Based on my understanding of Chinese cultures and the situations, my conclusion was that the main leaders of Taizhou were looking down upon Fort Wayne. I reported this opinion of mine in SCI November meeting.   

With this belief, I opted not to join the delegation. Another factor in my decision was that my vacations that from my company had already been used up for the September Huai’an Trip.  

From November 13th to the 20th of 2011, Mayor Henry led the delegation of 9 people to visit Taizhou. There, he signed the Letter of Intent with the Vice Mayor Zhao of Taizhou. The other delegation members included Tom, Rick, Jerry, Song Cai and four others. 


G. Taizhou Educational Delegation Visited Fort Wayne

With assistance from Dennis and his office in Hangzhou, China, Taizhou would have an educational delegation to visit Fort Wayne from December 7th to the 9th in 2011. Kerri reported the visit schedule in the SCI November board meeting 

The delegation had 5 members: Xu Linde, Vice Chairman of People's Political Consultative Conference of Taizhou; Lu Zhenxing, Vice President of Taizhou International Culture Exchanges Association; and three principals from either high or middle schools in Taizhou.

An entertaining incidence happened on December 7th. One of my acquaintances in Chicago called me that morning. He was the driver for the Taizhou delegation from Chicago to Fort Wayne, and he wanted to meet me at a hotel at 8:00PM. Confused, I asked, “What is going on?” Our mayor, along with 15 others, was scheduled to have dinner with the delegation at 6:00PM.

I reported the emergency situation to Kerri. Kerri contacted Taizhou and Dennis’s office at Hangzhou. However, it was night time of Taizhou, we could not expect to get any answer. Then, Kerri talked with the driver. The delegation head Xu Linde made a decision to cancel part of plans in Chicago to meet our mayor at 6:00 pm. 

The delegates from Taizhou visited Canterbury School, Blackhawk School, New Tech Academy and the Viking New Tech in Fort Wayne area. Both City of Fort Wayne and SCI hosted dinners for the guests.


VI. Final Stage: the Year of 2011


A.  Switched from Huai’an to Taizhou

From the beginning about Taizhou was interested in developing sister relationship with Fort Wayne in Early 2011, members of SCI were split in supporting different cities. Each city has its own advantages.

Tom organized a China Committee meeting on March 9, 2011 at Barrett and McNagny about Taizhou and Huai’an. Otto was specially invited to offer his comments on which city he suggested. He did not deny Huai’an but thought Taizhou was better.

The mayor of Huai’an visited Fort Wayne in July 2011 and SCI delegation visited Huai’an in September made the voice in supporting Huai’an strong. All delegation members went to Huai’an expressed strong supports for Huai’an.

Our mayor’s delegation to Taizhou in November 2011 affected me a lot. There must be some reasons I did not know for that our mayor seemed lower his status in meeting with a vice mayor of Taizhou by traveling thousands of miles. For our city’s overall interests, our major could accept to meet with a vice mayor, then, I had no reason to weigh much on my personal feelings and emotions.

At the dinner with the Taizhou educational delegation in December, Mayor Henry told me three reasons: 1) Governor Daniels had called his office in support of a sister city relationship between Fort Wayne and Taizhou; 2) the economy in Taizhou gave him a deep impression; and 3) the oranges of Taizhou were delicious. From here, I changed my position to a partial support of Taizhou.

SCI held its yearly gala on January 18, 2012. More than 200 people attended. Mayor Henry gave a speech pointed to Taizhou. Otto gave a presentation about one hour introducing about Taizhou. I was convinced by some of his points and switch to support Taizhou with only last concern about the attitudes of top leaders from Taizhou.     

At the end of February 2012, Mayor Wu Weirong of Taizhou sent a signed letter to Mayor Henry to apologize for being absent during his visit to Taizhou last November. Kerri presented this letter in our March SCI board meeting. Thus, it eliminated my last concern about Taizhou and switched to support Taizhou. So were some other SCI members.


B. Signing the Sister City Agreements  

In March of 2012, Taizhou scheduled a delegation to come to Fort Wayne to sign the sister city agreement. The SCI voted and approved Taizhou as Fort Wayne’s fourth sister city during the SCI May meeting 2012.

This delegation has 6 people include Xue Xianchu, the chairman of Taizhou People’s Congress, Xiang Wenmin, the director of Taizhou FAO, and four other officers.

With this trip, Betty Wong from Taizhou FAO became involved, and she gave me the contact info of the travel agency in the U.S. which arranged the delegation schedule. In the end, everything went as planned and on time.

On May 10, 2012, the formal sister city agreement was signed in Mayor Henry’s office with Mayor Henry, Tom Herr, Xue Xianchu and Xiang Wenmin signing their names on the agreement. About 70 Fort Wayne local community leaders were present at the signing ceremony. Media was there; the news was broadcasted via local newspapers and television channels.   

People presented the signing ceremony include most of SCI board members, Mike Landram, Dennis, Ren Yuan (FAO from Zhejiang Province), Samuel Krouse (Indiana State Department of Agriculture), Brook Steed (Indiana Economic Development Corporation), Joey Cochran, Sarah Rodriguez, Richard Lou, Yanni Qu, David Liu, Julia Zhu, Tom Dannenfelser, Jun Ma.

Besides the signing ceremony, the delegation also held a formal meeting with Mayor Henry and visited Canterbury School, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, and Parkview Hospital. John arranged a meeting to let the delegation talked with local business leaders in the Innovation Center.

Both City of Fort Wayne and the SCI hosted the dinner. Both sides exchanged gifts. Dorothy prepared gifts for SCI to Taizhou delegates at this time. Song Cai and I discussed future exchange plans with Xiang Wenmin after the dinner. 

The signing of the agreement was a success. It is just the first step of long march. Both cities will have to orchestrate more exchanges and form closer ties in economy, education, health care, culture and sports in the future.