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Havre de Grace establishes 'Twinning' relationship with community of Mumbles, Wales

Debby Stathes, of the Havre de Grace Twinning Association, discusses the 'Twinning' relationship between Mumbles, Wales, and Havre de Grace, while her husband, Chris, holds a photo of the town's coastline and lighthouse, during the Havre de Grace City Council meeting Monday.
Debby Stathes, of the Havre de Grace Twinning Association, discusses the 'Twinning' relationship between Mumbles, Wales, and Havre de Grace, while her husband, Chris, holds a photo of the town's coastline and lighthouse, during the Havre de Grace City Council meeting Monday. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A group of about 12 to 20 people from Havre de Grace are slated to travel to the small, coastal Welsh community of Mumbles, in recognition of the city’s newly established “Twinning” relationship with the British town.

“Twinning builds bridges between communities, hopefully creating enduring friendships,” Debby Stathes, of the Havre de Grace Twinning Association, said during Monday evening’s meeting of the Havre de Grace City Council.

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Stathes gave a presentation to Mayor William T. Martin and members of the city council on the Twinning Association and its relationship with Mumbles, which is part of the larger city of Swansea in southern Wales.

Twinning, which is a separate concept from sister cities, was established after World War II to “foster international friendship” and other ties among communities, Stathes said. Havre de Grace does have sister city relationships with Sillamae, Estonia, and Le Havre, France. Historians believe Havre de Grace derives its name from Le Havre.

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Mumbles, which is about five miles from Swansea, is along the Gower Peninsula, according to a web page on the community. Stathes highlighted the many similarities between Havre de Grace and Mumbles — both communities have historic lighthouses, an annual oyster festival, sailing, farmers’ markets, even establishments named Coakley’s. The Coakley’s in Mumbles is a fishmonger, selling seafood, however, Stathes said.

There are some differences, though, as Mumbles has a hilly terrain compared to the relatively flat Havre de Grace, and it has a historic castle. Stathes quipped that “we can work on that, or not.”

Stathes noted Mumbles already has a twinning relationship with the town of Hennebont in the Brittany region of northern France. That relationships dates to 2004, according to the Twinning Association of Mumbles website.

The Havre de Grace group is scheduled to travel to Mumbles in September and stay in town with host families for five days — the exact dates will be determined at the Twinning Association’s next meeting on March 19 — and a group from Mumbles is slated to visit Havre de Grace in 2021. Inter-city visits will then happen on a four-year cycle, Stathes said.

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She said she became interested in twinning after she and her husband, Chris, made numerous visits to Wales to see family over the years. The couple purchased property in Mumbles in 2017.

“The more time I spent there, the more it reminded us of Havre de Grace,” Stathes said.

She said she had seen signs in the community promoting the twinning relationship with Hennebont, France, and thought there could be a similar relationship between Mumbles and Havre de Grace.

She contacted the twinning association in Mumbles and town officials, and she pitched the idea to Martin and other city officials. Her idea won support on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

There is no cost to the city to participate in the program; travel expenses are borne by the association members, Stathes said. There is a $10 fee to join, and there are already 19 dues-paying members, she said.

People can get involved as travelers to Wales, hosts when Mumbles representatives come to visit or as supporters within the Havre de Grace community. Send an email to hdgtwinning@gmail.com, or visit the Havre de Grace Twinning Association page on Facebook for more information.

The association will, at its next meeting, establish an executive council and submit a constitution for its members’ approval, Stathes said. The organization is also seeing a resolution from the City Council recognizing the association — Council President David Glenn said, when asked by the mayor, that the council will “absolutely” draft a document recognizing the association.

“Havre de Grace Twinning dedicates itself to establishing personal relationships with members of communities that have much in common with our city,” she said.

Councilwoman Casi Tomarchio, the council’s liaison to the twinning association, praised Stathes for her leadership, and noted that citizens like her make Havre de Grace a really interesting place to live.”

The mayor said he is interested in traveling to Mumbles, and Councilman Jason Robertson told Stathes after the meeting that he is interested, too.

“It’s a great talking point,” Martin said of the twinning relationship. “It’s a cool thing to brag about that somewhere, 3,000 miles away, we have a twin.”

State of the City speech postponed

The mayor was scheduled to give his annual State of the City address Monday, but the speech was postponed to the next council meeting on Feb. 19.

Finance Director George DeHority was absent Monday, and Martin said after the meeting that he wants DeHority to be present as he reviews the city’s finances during his speech.

Martin also noted he wanted to have a greater focus on other matters on Monday’s agenda, such as recognition of students of the month and Stathes’ presentation on twinning. He said the next meeting’s agenda will be lighter.

The mayor’s address will highlight city accomplishments from 2018 in areas such as finance, public works, public safety and economic development. It will also be a preview of his administration’s goals for 2019, Martin said.

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