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Franklin, Williamson County look to trade insights with Sister Cities

"We facilitate a government-to-government relationship on the business side, and then cultivate friendship on the cultural side, which provides unanticipated gains and is very exciting and enriching.”

Doug Sharp

Past President, Sister Cities

Similar in look, size and community feel, the city of Franklin has an international twin. Two actually. Carleton, Canada just outside of Ottawa and Laois, Ireland, mimic much of the quality of life, history and appeal of Franklin, and it is the mission of Sister Cities of Franklin and Williamson County to cultivate a relationship between the cities as well as connect with other parts of the international community.

Consisting of more than 50 members, Sister Cities of Franklin and Williamson County held its inaugural membership meeting at Puckett’s Boathouse in Franklin March 12. The nonprofit organization was founded as an outgrowth of Leadership Franklin in 2002, and has the mission “to build global relationships, to share cultural and educational experiences, and to inspire economic growth for our community.”

“When you travel and experience another culture, you expand and grow as well as add another dimension to life that removes prejudices,” said member Betsy Hester, who is also a Williamson County Commissoner.

The organization officially established a Sister Cities agreement with the city of Carleton in 2005 and Laois in 2008.

“Carleton is a lot like Franklin used to be when it was smaller. They look to us for guidance in planning and growth for the future,” said Mike Thompson, vice president of Sister Cities.

The Canadian city consists of about 10,000 people and is located just outside of a bigger city, similar to Franklin’s location outside of Nashville. Thompson has travelled to Carleton about six times to meet with Sister City representatives and has attended hockey games when the Nashville Predators play the Ottawa Senators.

Mindy Tate, who serves on the Carleton committee said, “When I arrived in Carleton for the first time, I thought ‘How did I get back in Franklin?’”

“The architecture of the downtown area with Scotch and Irish influence is so similar to Franklin’s Main Street,” said Doug Sharp, who is a founding member of Sister Cities and previously served as president for the past 11 years. “The stone and brick, and scale of the area, as well as the walkable feel and friendly people provide a warm environment just like Franklin.”

“We facilitate a government-to-government relationship on the business side, and then cultivate friendship on the cultural side, which provides unanticipated gains and is very exciting and enriching,” said Sharp.

“Usually there are two groups of people who join Sister Cities; people who have some tie to a country, and people who love to travel and learn about other cultures. We have Canadians and people who have lived in Ireland,” said Thompson.

Williamson County represents many different cultures and peoples who have settled in the area from places across the globe said Ramon Cisneros, a native of Venezuela who has lived in Williamson County for 25 years.

“Williamson County is a very cosmopolitan place. It’s amazing how international the community can be. Sister Cities is a bridge of Williamson County that connects the international community. Now that we are moving to a more global world, what better place to be than Sister Cities?” Cisneros said.

Events hosted by the organization include Passport to the World, Celebration of Nations, Youth Exchange, Pumpkinfest and now annual member meetings. Passport to the World is an educational series that focuses on learning about one country every other month. The series takes place at either O’More College of Design or the library on the first Sunday of the month every other month. The next one will be held April 7. Also, Celebration of Nations, an international street festival, will take place in downtown Franklin Oct. 12.

“Sometimes we seem like a travel-oriented organization, but we are really a culture-oriented organization with strong principles on getting to know other cultures,” said President Patricia Kriebel. “The year ahead of us will be extraordinary.”

The group is currently accepting applications for its Youth Exchange program. For more information, contact Sharon Bottorff at 615-512-9551 or visit

Posted on: 3/13/2013


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