MADEIRA BEACH – An exclusive long-term “sister city” relationship between Madeira Beach and the Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa may be in jeopardy. A new sister is calling with lots to offer.
Representatives from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas have approached Madeira Beach officials through Old Salt Fishing Tournament chairman Tom Verdensky about establishing a new, and potentially profitable, sister city arrangement with the “fishing capital of the Caribbean.”
The ingredients are there for a mutually beneficial partnership, Mayor Travis Palladeno told city commission members at their Sept. 25 meeting. The announcement of a potential Madeira Beach-Bimini linkup was a surprise topic that Palladeno had held until the end of the meeting.
“Now for the big one,” he said in introducing the subject.
Verdensky said he had met with Bimini’s Minister of Tourism about becoming a sponsor of the Old Salts fishing event and found interest in “something much larger than a sponsorship opportunity.”
“They wanted a sister city relationship,” he said.
The partnership could provide a big boost in the local economy, Verdensky believes. The Bahamas currently spends over $40 million dollars to promote tourism, largely on the East Coast in the Miami–Fort Lauderdale area.
“They want to broaden out,” Verdensky said, “and the city of Madeira Beach could lead their (tourism) effort on the West Coast.”
Fishing is the bond that tie the two communities together, said Palladeno.
“(Bimini) is the kingfish capital of the world,” he said. “We are the grouper capital.”
The mayor is also a fishing captain.
Bimini’s desire to spend more tourist dollars in Madeira Beach could “put our city on the map,” Palladeno said. “How can we get their money over here? A sister city relationship is the answer.”
Madeira Beach’s current sister city arrangement with the Madeira Islands has been inactive for some time and appears to exist in name only, Palladeno added.
“I’ve had no contact with them, by email or telephone, since I’ve been mayor,” he said.
City Manager Shane Crawford said he is familiar with sister city pairings and believes a relationship with Bimini “can have an immediate impact on Madeira Beach.”
“I see a lot of value in this and I’ve been involved with ones that have no value,” he said.
The commission agreed to send a delegation, likely consisting of Crawford, Central Services Director Dave Marsicano, and Palladeno to Bimini in early October to pursue the sister city topic.
The mayor said he would pay his own travel expenses “as I always do.”
Commissioner Terry Lister said he approved of a Madeira Beach-Bimini relationship.
“It makes sense to have a sister city that is closer (than the Madeira Islands),” he said.