Officials from cities thousands of miles apart met in Raymore on Tuesday to share best local government practices and forge an alliance based on parallel goals for their respective communities.
During the daylong event, officials from Raymore, Belton and Harrisonville met with elected representatives from Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss how to create a local government based on the democratic system, which is a new model for the Himalayan state.
Since adopting a new constitution in 2015, Nepal has been in the process of developing a national democratic government. In 2017, regional constituencies began focusing their efforts on a local level.
The process, which can be daunting, has come with its fair share of challenges.
“Here, we say everything starts local,” said Raymore Mayor, Kristofer Turnbow. “Local control is key and we’re here to help them seize this opportunity. Mayor Thapa has a huge job seeing these issues are addressed. We can help them gain perspective, as they put together ordinances, rules and departments.”
Representing their country’s newly formed democracy, the Nepal delegation included Mayor Krishana Hari Thapa, Ward President Bhai Kaji Adhikari, and pastor and development adviser Rajan Neupane.
“We want to learn how to build our local government,” Neupane said. “Then, we want to help build up our whole country.”
Discussion topics ranged from education, tourism, budgets and sanitation systems to agriculture, judicial processes, law enforcement and roads. During the talks, local officials emphasized that there are multiple layers of stakeholders involved in a collaborative local government and relationship building is key to solving challenges.
“Here, we’re regionally minded and always want to help each other. Everybody needs partnerships for planning and this is one of the ways we succeed — and we want everyone to succeed,” said Belton Mayor Jeff Davis.
“Though Nepal is on the other side of world, they face many of the same challenges we face, but they don’t have to replicate the same mistakes we’ve made. With this discourse, they can learn how to create their own democracy one step at time.”
Tuesday’s international gathering had, as its seed, a friendship between two pastors who live across the world from each other: Pastor and Brian Hedges, Heartland Baptist Church pastor. Last summer, Neupane was visiting his friend and shared some of the challenges the new local government leaders were facing.
After listening to his friend’s concerns, Hedges introduced Neupane to Harrisonville Alderwoman Judy Bowman.
Bowman met with Neupane and shared an overview and offered insights on how government works on a local level.
As a followup to the initial meeting, Bowman invited Mayor Neupane and Ward President Thapa and to visit this spring for more in-depth conversations on building a local government.
In addition to the morning’s roundtable discussion, Tuesday’s agenda also included tours of Raymore City Hall and the Belton Wastewater Treatment Facility.
During the city hall tour, the Nepal delegates were introduced to the city’s organizational structure and managers shared overviews of the responsibilities of each department. The delegates were also given a flash drive of files, including the Raymore city charter, the city’s budget, municipal codes, and court operations.
Over the past few months and days, the connection between the American and Nepalese local government leaders has evolved into more than an exchange of information and best practices.
This alliance between representatives from the heart of Nepal and the heart of the United States has developed into a mutually beneficial friendship and collaboration.
“There’s a bigger opportunity here that goes beyond the municipalities,” Hedges said.
In fact, Tuesday’s discussion also included talks of establishing sister cities between these newly bonded government partners.
“I would love to see us become sister cities,” Bowman said. “If Brian hadn’t reached out to me, this meeting would never have happened.”
Davis added, “This is one of the best meetings I have ever been in. It’s good for everyone. It’s a great interchange of culture and a great opportunity for all of us.”