Visitors from Hokuto City, Japan are in town this week enjoying the sights of Berea, Richmond, Madison County and Louisville as part of an annual cultural exchange between that highland Japanese community and Madison County.
Mayor Bruce Fraley and Linda Fraley welcomed the visitors, along with other dignitaries, including Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor, as well as Berea City Council members David Rowlette, Cora Jane Wilson, Jim Davis and John Payne.
At the reception, Mayor Fraley delivered the following remarks:
“On behalf of the City of Berea, I want to wish our distinguished guests from Hokuto City a warm welcome. The sister city program has been active for over 30 years now, and there are at least two people who are present this evening who have been involved with the program since it began in 1988: Randy Stone, who has served as the Berea city administrator for 22 years, and Violet Farmer, who served for over 30 years on the Berea City Council and is a retired elementary school teacher. Mrs. Farmer was my teacher when I was a young man many years ago. I encourage you to get to know Ms. Farmer and Mr. Stone while you are visiting with us this week.
“While I have only served in public office for a short time, I know that our sister city program is very unique because it has become a “sister region” program, which fosters a mutually beneficial relationship between Hokuto City and Madison County, which includes both the City of Berea and the City of Richmond, with support from both Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University.
“We have also seen the program grow in developing mutual understanding through industrial, cultural and educational exchanges, which continues to strengthen the program and strengthens ties between Japan and the United States.
“Over the past 30 years, we have seen growth of the international economy, where we are connected more closely than ever. In Berea, we have Japanese ownership of three manufacturing plants. Hitachi is our largest employer with approximately 1,500 employees, KIUSA has 115 employees, and Kentucky Steel Center with approximately 65 employees. These three employers have provided good paying jobs and have improved the quality of life for the citizens of Berea and surrounding counties.
“International friendships are developed during the sister city delegation visits. And electronic communication has made it easy to communicate with people around the world, regardless of how far apart we may live.
“I have spoken with several citizens of Madison County who have visited Hokuto City in past years, and the impact of participation has been described to me as ‘life changing’ and ‘transformational.’ I hope that your visit to Berea, Richmond, and Madison County is also a ‘transformational’ and ‘life changing’ experience.
“When we work together, get to know one another, and come to understand each other, we do our part to create a better world to live in and promote world peace.”
Mayor Fraley concluded his remarks by thanking the Madison County International Committee for their efforts to plan the activities for the week, and he thanked Boone Tavern Inn for preparing the meal and meeting room.