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Columbia mayor part of delegation heading to Switzerland later this month


Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe will be one of many U.S. mayors taking a trip to Switzerland this month.

Buffaloe will join a group of other female mayors from across the U.S. as part of a delegation to Switzerland. The Swiss government is organizing and paying for the trip to bring leaders from both countries together to discuss a variety of topics, including sustainability and public transportation. The trip runs through the last week of April. Buffaloe said the trip will not cost any Columbia taxpayers.

Buffaloe's participation in the Swiss delegation will make her third overseas trip as mayor of Columbia in the past seven months. Buffaloe went to China as part of the U.S. Heartland China Association and the COP28 climate summit in Dubai with the U.S. Conference of Mayors last fall. Those organizations paid for Buffaloe's trips.

The Switzerland trip is done in conjunction with Presence Switzerland, a Swiss government agency that promotes the country's interests abroad. A Swiss Embassy spokesman in Washington D.C. said the government invited 10-12 female mayors across the U.S.

"The trip offers a unique opportunity to position Switzerland’s highly innovative, sustainable and forward-looking approach to urban development and governance in Swiss cities to an audience of high-level political leaders from the United States," the spokesman said. "The motivation of the trip is to highlight Switzerland as a diplomatic advocate for principles of equality, and inclusive democratic processes. Under the theme Shaping Urban Landscapes for a Sustainable Future, the program will allow for exchanges on infrastructure, economic resilience, public safety, and sustainability, among other topics. Inviting foreign delegations is an important public diplomacy tool and allows Switzerland to convey key themes and messages of its communication abroad in a targeted manner to opinion leaders from politics, administration, and industry."

Buffaloe said the trip will allow her to learn more about Switzerland, and its cities' uses of public transportation, local government efficiency and mental-health resources. She said the trips give her an opportunity to meet leaders in other countries and promote Columbia to them.

"When I'm looking to have a new business or a new industry move to Columbia, what is going to make us stand out?" Buffaloe said. "It's really about making sure that they've heard of Columbia before and they have a good feeling about that. They remember meeting me and thinking positively about the vibrancy of our community."

Columbia City Council members said they were supportive of Buffaloe's trips abroad. Ward 4 Councilman Nick Foster told ABC 17 News that the mayor makes useful connections both internationally and with the mayors she travels alongside. He said the trips were a good use of the mayor's time.

"[The other U.S. mayors on the trip] are the ones that I might call on to ask, 'How did you do this in Oklahoma, because I want to do it in Columbia,'" Buffaloe said.

The council-manager form of government Columbia uses means that the city manager runs the day-to-day business of the city. Buffaloe is not slated to miss any council meetings while away. Buffaloe said she was thankful for it since it allows her the opportunity to partake in such delegations. Foster will serve as mayor should a meeting be necessary while she is gone.

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.. shows for ABC 17 News and reports on the investigative stories.


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