Washougal explores ‘Sister City’ program

City manager will reach out to representatives in Zielonki, Poland

The city of Washougal is exploring the possibility of entering into a sister-city relationship with Zielonki, a small town in southern Poland.

“Nothing’s formalized, nothing’s official,” City Manager David Scott said during a Washougal City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 10. “The council in that community hasn’t had a big conversation about this, but there are some leaders there who are very interested in promoting this.”

Washougal City Council members gave the idea an unofficial but enthusiastic vote of approval during the meeting.

“I will be communicating with a representative from (Zielonki’s) council to share the information that we are interested in pursuing next steps,” Scott told the Post-Record. “Then we’ll hear back from them on whether they confirm their similar interest, and if so, we will then mutually develop a plan of cooperation.”

A sister-city relationship is a form of legal or social agreement between two geographically and politically distinct localities for the purpose of promoting cultural and commercial ties. Scott noted during the meeting that the city of Camas has enjoyed sister-city arrangements with three cities in Poland — Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow — for many years.

“Zielonki is close to one of the communities with which Camas has a sister-city relationship,” he added.

Zielonki, located north of Poland’s capital city of Warsaw, has around 23,000 residents.

“They’re kind of like us, the same size and the same issues that they’re dealing with,” Washougal Mayor David Stuebe said during the meeting. “(A sister-city arrangement would be) a great way to meet new people, open up communication and share new ideas. I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s really exciting.”

Scott said that talks with Zielonki leaders began before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and recently rekindled.

“Joining us in those (previous) conversations was former councilmember (Ray) Kutch, who is of Polish heritage and I think speaks a little Polish,” Scott said. “He was very enthusiastic about this possible relationship. … It could manifest itself in some exchanges where several members of the Washougal community leadership could travel there, and then some of them could travel here. It could also involve partnership with the schools. A lot of what Camas does is English language work with students, so a possible first step would be to include some of the youth in Zielonki into the program.”

Councilwoman Molly Coston said that the City should follow the advice of former city of Camas administrator Lloyd Halverson, who has visited Camas’ sister cities in Poland many times and wrote a paper about the “elements of success for this kind of program.”

“Our city has to be supportive over the long run. This is not a short-term thing,” Coston said. “The school district eventually will have to buy in, and we did have buy-in from them pre-COVID. And then, of course, (we would need) a strong community component. Camas has a committee that actually raises money from the private sector for both the travel and the summer programs for kids and things like that. We’re going to have to have those three components in the long run to make it successful for a long period of time, but I’m fully supportive of taking those initial steps to continue on this path. I think it’s wonderful.”