Councilor Patricia Plantamura, far left, and the German delegation pose with Seminole firefighters Brian Ulrich, second from right, and Nadier Yacoub, far right.
SEMINOLE – Four German municipal staff members toured and studied Seminole and Pinellas County as guests of the City and Councilor Patricia Plantamura in March. The visit was organized through an American Council on Germany exchange program. They came for close-up looks at city and county government facilities as well as St. Petersburg College.
The annual exchange, through the John J. McCloy Fellowship in Urban Affairs, facilitates transatlantic communication about cities’ best practices. Each year, four municipal employees from the United States and four from Germany are chosen to tour several cities in each other’s countries. This was Plantamura’s chance to reciprocate after being hosted in a number of German cities in the program last October.
The McCloy Fellowship recipients’ tour of Seminole showcased the city’s energy-efficient green buildings. SPC Seminole provost Dr. James Olliver led the group on a tour of the school’s campus, and library director Michael Bryan showed them the Seminole Community Library. During the Seminole Recreation Center tour with recreation director Becky Gunter, the Germans were impressed by the facilities, and the number and variety of activities offered. On behalf of their German counterparts, the delegation honored the Seminole firefighters in a mutual exchange of T-shirts bearing their station emblems.
Further highlighting the unique beauty of the Florida Suncoast, the delegation attended a presentation on the County Artificial Reef Program by program coordinator Charles Mangio at Pinellas’ Solid Waste facilities in St. Petersburg. The Germans learned how the reef program sinks disused structures off the coast to enhance recreational diving and fishing. Coastal manager Andy Squires presented on the County beach re-nourishment program, which combats coastal erosion. Since tourism is such an invaluable part of the local economy, Squires explained, the federally funded program to maintain the beaches is essential. Also on site, the group was given a tour of Pinellas County’s Waste-to-Energy plant by technician Tom Roberts.
The guests remarked that a highlight of their stay was their canoe ride through mangroves at Weedon Island Preserve, led by county extension agents Libby Carnahan and Brian Niemann. The German delegation enjoyed the world-famous Dali Museum, St. Petersburg Bayfront and John’s Pass. To add historical context to their visit, Councilor Plantamura brought them to Heritage Village in Largo, where they toured buildings preserved from more than a past century. They also stopped at the Jungle Prada in St. Petersburg, the reputed site from where the first Catholic mass in Florida was held, and Panfilo De Narvaez launched the first exploration by white man of the North America.
Delegation members were Dr. Christine Wilcken, German Association of Cities (Berlin); Sandra Bohm, Vehicle Registration Center (Offenbach); Dr. Christine Meyer, city of Nuremberg; and Henrik Neumann, city of Jena.
Seminole was just one American city to host the group in March. The Germans also visited Washington, D.C., and cities in New York, Arizona, Ohio, and Michigan. Just prior to their arrival in Florida, Councilor Plantamura met up with the delegation in Washington, D.C., where she was attending the National League of Cities convention. The Germans were scheduled to be in D.C. as part of their tour of the U.S., so they attended some League workshops with Plantamura before all flying to Florida.
Municipal employees throughout the country can apply to participate in future trips by contacting the American Council on Germany.