Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) questions the panelists about how they see San Antonio developing in reaction to projects that Bexar County will attract one million additional residents by 2040. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) delivers his state of the district address." Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) is the new vice chair of the Sister Cities International board, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to forming and maintaining global relationships between communities.

Nirenberg will serve as vice chair for two years before becoming chair for another two-year term in 2018, the same year of San Antonio’s Tricentennial celebrations. He will then serve as chair emeritus for yet another two years.

“I am honored to help lead an organization that has, for 60 years, created bridges to peace in some of the most challenging global circumstances,” Nirenberg stated in a news release. “I am eager to continue building an image of San Antonio as a strong partner in international relations and citizen-to-citizen diplomacy. We know that in today’s world, these kinds of connections have cultural and economic value.”

Nirenberg, who attended the national Sister Cities conference in Washington, D.C. last weekend, told the Rivard Report in a phone interview that the appointment builds on San Antonio’s long-standing commitment to fostering international relationships.

“San Antonio has a special place with the organization because we have model leadership and a model place in SCI (Sister Cities) going back to former Mayor Henry Cisneros,” Nirenberg said. “This is a six-year appointment (track), so it will really give San Antonio time to be at the forefront of SCI. It will also give us a seat at the table for the international efforts.”

Summer of Service (SOS) San Antonio and SAY Si students met with Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) at the Sister Cities International (SCI) conference in Washington, D.C.  Photo courtesy of Summer of Service (SOS).
Summer of Service San Antonio and SAY Si students met with Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) at the Sister Cities International conference in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Summer of Service.

Tim Quigley, outgoing Sister Cities board chair, stated that he is “delighted” by Nirenberg’s appointment.

“Ron’s strong support at the local level in San Antonio and nationally for the work of the citizen diplomat in building bridges between people and communities in our troubled world is illustrative of his dedicated leadership commitment to promoting global peace and harmony,” Quigley stated.

San Antonio has nine sister cities including two in Mexico, five in Asia, and two in the Canary Islands. Mayor Ivy Taylor recently visited the latter as a part of the City’s delegation trip to Spain this summer. The City also maintains four friendship cities. Darmstadt, Germany joined that list in April 2016.

Sister Cities was created in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to foster peaceful relationships between U.S. and international cities. There are now more than 2,300 participating communities in 150 countries.

In 1953, before the nonprofit was formed, Monterrey, Mexico became San Antonio’s first “sister city.” Wuxi, China became the city’s most recent affiliation in 2012.

Summer of Service students with their Chinese counterparts in Wuxi, China, a sister city of San Antonio, at the Jinqiao Bilingual School. Photo courtesy of Summer of Service.

Sister cities promote civic, educational and cultural exchanges and frequently offer monetary aid after natural disasters.

Shahrzad “Sherry” Dowlatshahi, City of San Antonio’s chief of protocol at the Office of International Relations, said Nirenberg’s new position will go a long way in promoting San Antonio’s place in the organization.

“Councilman Nirenberg’s appointment raises the profile of San Antonio internationally for what SCI is doing to remain important in the 21st century,” Dowlatshahi told the Rivard Report. “He will be bringing a lot of his experience as a policymaker at local level to the organization, so San Antonio will be a stakeholder when it comes to decision-making on the national level. This appointment will certainly be a benefit to raising our global profile.”

Dowlatshahi said that the City is amidst preparations for the Tricentennial celebrations and that Nirenberg’s appointment will make the celebration with visitors from sister cities that much more enjoyable.

“The Tricentennial year is a very big year for the city,” Dowlatshahi said. “We want our sister cities to be included in our festivities, and Mayor Taylor has already extended invitations all around the world for them to come and participate.”

Sister Cities celebrated its 60th anniversary on July 15 in San Antonio with an awards ceremony for local community and business leaders who have positively contributed to international relations. Among those honored was former Mayor Phil Hardberger for his diplomatic leadership and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. for its corporate leadership.

Top image: Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) delivers his February 2016 state of the district address.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone


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Sarah Talaat

Former Rivard Report intern Sarah Talaat graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2016. You can find her in Beijing, China where she is pursuing a business journalism master's at Tsinghua...