Loudoun County’s government has been partnered with the south-central Virginia City of Danville as one of the first four localities in Gov. Ralph Northam’s new Virginia Local Government Exchange Program.
An announcement from Northam’s office states the program is designed to bridge cultural and geographic divides across Virginia, modeled after the Sister Cities International Program. Loudoun, too, has sister city arrangements internationally with municipalities in Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, China, and Turkey.
“The Virginia Local Government Exchange Program will create opportunities for leaders to experience just how diverse our Commonwealth is,” Northam stated. “The idea is simple—it’s much easier to understand a distant place when you see it, talk to the people who live there, get to know one another, and exchange ideas. This a way to move beyond politics that too often pits communities against each other. This program is designed to help localities learn about each other’s challenges and opportunities, and view other regions of the state as partners, not competitors.”
Under the program, partner communities will trade delegations of local and state legislators and other stakeholders once over the next year. Visiting delegations will be taken on an itinerary that highlights tourism, natural and cultural assets, and economic development strategies.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she didn’t know how Loudoun was chosen to be one of the first localities involved, and a schedule for exchanging delegations has not yet been set. She said it also has not yet been determined what the goals of the delegations will be.
“What I show a delegation from Danville would depend on the nature and goals of a visit/visits,” Randall wrote. “If the goal is education, we would visit schools, if tourism we would talk with Visit Loudoun, etc.” As to what the two municipalities can learn from one another, she wrote: “That remains to be determined. I look forward to researching and answering this question.”
Danville is a city of about 42,000, compared to Loudoun’s nearly 413,000 people. It is home to Averett University, a Baptist four-year college of just under 1,900 students; Danville Community College, which predates the state community college system; the minor league Danville Braves baseball team, a farm team for the Atlanta Braves; and the Danville Register & Bee, a daily newspaper with a reported circulation of close to 15,000.
It is also the home of a number of museums like the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History and the American Armoured Foundation’s tank museum, and a number of historical districts and sites. The city was incorporated in 1835.
“We look forward to the opportunity to learn more about other communities in Virginia and for them to learn about Danville,”stated City of Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones.“We feel like we’ve got a great story to tell, and I am certain the others do as well.”
The program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Association of Counties, and Virginia Municipal League.
The pilot program also partnered the southwestern Virginia City of Norton with the City of Alexandria. Northam has already hosted leaders from the pilot localities at the Executive Mansion in Richmond to kick off the program.