A delegation from the Hope Town District Council visited the Stuart and West Palm Beach in Florida on August 30 through September 2 with the view to forge stronger ties with the cities.
The council delegation consisting of Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting, and Councillors Don Cash and Arthur Elden, was received in Stuart by Mayor Troy McDonald and his City Commission. Also on hand was Consul General Ricardo Treco of the Bahamas Consulate in Miami.
In a 30 minute Council session a sister city agreement between Stuart and Hope Town district was signed, similar to one that was signed in Hope Town during Mayor McDonald’s visit on July 26th. During the session, Mr. McDonald presented Mr. Sweeting with the key to the city of Stuart after which the Chief Councillor presented him with a “Key to the District” of Hope Town.
Following this session, they entered a business round table with several successful businesses of Stuart – Whiticar Yachts, Crowder Rods, and Armstrong Nautical products. The round table discussion was chaired by Gary Guertin, co-publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine, and a frequent visitor to the Bahamas. The roundtable participants discussed how best both areas can benefit through commerce and trade. There was a mention that approval was recently granted for a Customs and Immigration facility at Stuart’s airport. This move all felt may attract some Bahamian travelers to fly into Stuart to spend time in the Treasure Coast areas.
The delegation was given a tour of downtown with stops and tours of all businesses that participated in the roundtable. In addition, they also visited the Geoffrey Smith Sculpture Gallery and the city’s reclamation plant. The day concluded with an evening reception with a well prepared dinner overlooking the St. Lucie River.
Mr. Sweeting said that Hope Town and Stuart look forward to building their sister city relationship stronger in the years ahead.
On September 1st, the delegation met informally with the Mayor in Stuart for lunch. They learned at the luncheon attended also by several Stuart businessmen, that more boaters and cruisers would visit the Bahamas if they could be assured of a secure communication base via wireless internet throughout the islands. If this were achieved, boaters could operate their businesses from their boats which would enable them to cruise longer.
Mr. Sweeting was invited by the Mayor of West Palm Beach, Mayor Jeri Muoio to attend their City Commission meeting on September 2nd.
Prior to this meeting, the Mr. Sweeting and his delegation were given a tour of the West Palm Beach City Hall and their library facilities.
During the Commission meeting, Mayor Muoio welcomed the delegation, presented each of them with a book on the city’s history and presented Chief Councillor Sweeting with the key to the city.
Mr. Sweeting spoke to the commission of Abaco’s historical connection to the area due to its close proximity to West Palm Beach. He said that Bahamians spent $1.4 billion dollars in Florida in 2013, noting that West Palm Beach receives a fair share of this, as Bahamians don’t only travel for shopping and trade, but for educational purposes and to seek medical attention.
He noted the different sizes of the communities but he said they share common challenges such as “the need for greater autonomy, the all too frequent budgetary constraints, and the need to always improve the efficiency on the delivery of services to our constituents.”
The following day the delegation toured Palmetto Elementary in Palm Beach answering students questions about The Bahamas and giving a brief talk. The teacher during the class period was Mary Kay Westhoven, former teacher at Man-O-War All Age School during the 1980’s. Mr. Sweeting said that he was one of her students.
MR. Sweeting said that the Hope Town District Council viewed the trip as a success and looks forward to strengthening their ties with these US cities.