The Delegation of the Republic of Moldova, made up of 4 mayors and a representative of the State Chancellery (Vitalie COLUN, Mayour of Orhei town, Elena Bodnarenco, Mayor of Soroca town, Tatiana Gălăteanu, Mayor of Giurgiuleşti village, Cahul district, Ion Cărpineanu, Mayor of Cărpineni commune, Hînceşti district and Victoria Cujba, Deputy Head of the Department for Decentralization Policies within the State Chancellery), had the opportunity to conduct a study trip in North Carolina, USA. During the trip, the members of the Moldova delegation had an exchange of experience with their counterparts in the field of local public administration, good governance, decentralization and local autonomy. The study trip was supported by the OPEN WORLD Programme and was funded by the USA Congress.
The experience gained by the representatives of public administration of Moldova during this study trip exceeded their expectations. Numerous meetings with their host-families, with their American counterparts, in various working and life circumstances, helped them build a general picture of an American citizen, who plays an active role in the public life of the society, who is unselfishly involved in addressing the community problems and in supporting the most vulnerable groups of the society.
It was a period with a lot of new information and knowledge on the system of local public administration, a period of intensive communication, exchange of opinions and experience with different American civil servants and public officials, a period that brought concrete results and great future plans for the delegation of the Republic of Moldova.
Each hour of the study trip was strictly planned and adjusted to the professional interests of each member of the delegation, so that in the end, all of them established concrete contacts, concluded new agreements and signed statements of intent to twin some localities. Moreover, they included in their agenda joint initiatives with the support of our American colleagues.
We discovered an America with citizens open for communication, socially active and with a highly developed spirit of initiative and patriotism, involved in everything that is going on in their community. There are a lot of differences between Americans and Moldovans: history, economic conditions, general level of development, culture etc. One of the most visible differences between Americans and Moldovans is their and our attitude towards the problems around us, level of involvement, civic spirit and that of patriotism.
Following our meetings with mayors, local government managers and elected councillors we understood that the activity of the local public administration should be managed in a pragmatic way, similar to managing a private business. This efficient management of the local public administration, based on measurable economic results and oriented towards the generation of its own income, is a model of good governance that sets all the premises for an authentic local autonomy. Moreover, the civil society is the main partner of the local public administrations when it comes to delivering services and supporting the most vulnerable groups of the community.
No doubt that the differences between the duties of our mayors and those of American mayours are huge. Having just a representative position, the elected American mayor is assisted by a professional team of managers, selected as a result of a rigorous test. We were extremely curious to find out about the Manager's duties - a position that is a novelty for our classic system of local public administration. Asked about the involvement of politics in local public administration, our American counterparts were shrugging and asking us to explain what exactly we mean by that. It is weird for them, but not for us!
We also felt proud for our mayors, because during our meetings and talks with American mayors and managers, our mayors proved that they have thorough knowledge on a wide range of problems that were discussed during the meetings - complex knowledge that is difficult for just one person to have. The mayors from Moldova confirmed that the reality from our local administration makes them acquire knowledge in various field, to understand the essence of different fields of activity: utilities, education, healthcare, culture, social assistance, property management, economic development, public transportation and infrastructure, public order services and many others. The American colleagues appreciated our Mayors' level of professionalism.
During our meeting in HENDERSONVILLE, North Carolina, we had the feeling that all the people around us were involved in the organization of our visit, everyone tried to do his/her best to make us feel good, to fully use this opportunity, to return home with a lot of knowledge, good impressions and with new friends. We felt this support and involvement at our first meeting with the representatives of OPEN WORLD Programme. Further, at Asheville airport, the meeting with our host-families confirmed our feeling that we would have a great time in the USA. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude and highest respect to our American families: Bill and Judy Wilkes, Hunter and Suzanne Hale, Carl and Maria Cochrane, Peggy and Doug Judkins, Rudi and Joe Carello. In addition, we would like to thank all those who took care of each and every detail to ensure a smooth and productive trip for all of us: Friendship Force of Western North Carolina Organisation, Planning Committee, Renee Kumor, Carol World, Joy Williams, Chair. Bill and Judy Wilkes were our guardians in the absence of our host-families and we could easily see their dedication for this volunteer work. We, Moldovans who have a different mentality, were trying to find a reasonable explanation for this enthusiasm.
The active life of our host-families - the older generation (but with a very young spirit!)- made us frequently think of the realities of our retired persons. To be useful for the society at any age, to send a message to the younger generation that any age has its own occupations and achievements, that we can live not only a wealthy, but also a beautiful life, that the experience and knowledge acquired during the life must be appreciated and fully used by the public authorities and by the society - these were just some thoughts inspired by the life of our host-families, that we hope to be come a reality in our society as well. We, the members of our delegation, agreed to be active at any age and to destroy the stereotype that exists in Moldova, to make the elderly feel not as a vulnerable group, but as a group that is useful for the society thanks to their experience.
It is not so easy to describe the vast experience that we gained during our study trip that was full of meetings. We were extremely impressed by the history, culture, architecture of Washington DC, by our tour around the Capitol Building, our excursion to the US Congress Library, by various visits to monuments of undeniable historic value. The information that we got from the Ambassadors, Senators, American mass-media representatives, American University professors, bloggers, specialists in electoral technologies, civil servants and public officials helped us understand the American reality, the American dream, the factors that help strengthening the USA.
Altogether, we tried to find answers to many questions that we put to ourselves: why they succeed to create such a society and why it is so complicated for us; why they are more sensible to others' problems; why the altruism is the characteristic feature of Americans; why they unselfishly provide support to our children from poor families and scholarships for our students; why, despite their problems, they do not neglect our problems etc. We all reached the conclusion it happens because they are members of an open, democratic society, without complexes related to a controversial past. They treat and accept history as it is and are always future-oriented.
Being very diverse nation, Americans succeeded to form a united entity, to have a national idea and to bring their personal input in the achievement of this idea. We have to learn how to be personally involved, how to contribute to the development of our country, the Republic of Moldova.
Well-known person in Moldova, the representative of "Moldova World Children's Fund", President Ray F. West of Hendersonville, North Carolina, being a frequent guest of our country, surprised us by his knowledge about many localities, where he implemented concrete projects to support children from poor families. Volunteering, charity and civic involvement promoted by many colleagues of Mr. Ray and by various associations, such as Hendersonville Rotary Club, DuPont Forest, French Broad River Yacht Club, Red Cross, The League of Women Voters of Henderson Coaunty, Advantage West Economic Development Group, Marcheting Association for Rehabilitation Center, exceeded our Moldovan imagination.
We highly appreciated that our discussions used to turn quickly from formal into informal, personal and friendly talks that helped us easily find answers to many questions. Given that religion plays a very important role in the life of Americans, the motto "In God we Trust" was officially adopted by the USA Congress and can be read even on American dollars. The faith and altruism for people around us are omnipresent.
We saw this religious solidarity during our meetings with a Moldovan family that emigrated to Asheville from Ialoveni, Rezeni village. They are a hard-working and hospitable family that succeeded to integrate in the American society, being very active in their community and even supporting people in need from Moldova. Their faith helped them overcome many barriers and everything is possible with faith - these words prevail and are sacred for them. In this context, we would like to express our special respect for the spiritual values and sacred things of the persons whom we met.
We felt the respect for Moldovans during our discussion with Mrs. Terry Bellamy, the Mayor of Asheville town, who with a soft voice said that the Moldovan houses can be recognized from far away in her town "... by window curtains and by the fact that they take off their shoes before entering the house". She also highly appreciated the intelligence of Moldovans whom she met and with whom the Town Hall is working. In our turn, we felt proud for these people, who being far away from home, manage to create a positive picture of Moldova.
There are many words of gratitude to be said by our team, who had the chance to meet many special persons during our study trip in the USA. I believe that we will use our experience gained in the USA very often. We hope that our mayors will succeed to implement those Agreements of Intent to Twin with such towns as Asheville, Hendersonville, Brevard, Mills River. We also hope that we will be able to implement numerous initiatives that were launched with the support of OPEN WORLD Programme, as well as with the assistance of our group's facilitator Mr. Mircea Manole.
We learnt more about our Moldovan colleagues as well. All our talks about our localities, about our achievements and good things that take place in our country, about the effective decentralization and the efforts made to have good local governance made us recover our confidence in our own powers. It was like a confirmation that Moldova can succeed and that people can be also socially active in Moldova. We have to start with ourselves. We have to be open to learn from those who attained successful results, such as our colleagues from the administration of the North Carolina.
We came back to Moldova with a lot of homework related to our work and the locality we live in, but also we returned full of optimism and hope. It is important to learn from the Americans: To accept changes, to share common ideals and to develop the local economy!
On behalf of the group
"Responsible Governance: Local Public Administration",
Deputy Head of the Department for Decentralization Policies,