The Sister City Association of Sarasota
A Brief History
The history of the Sister City Association of Sarasota (SCAS) really had its beginning in Washington, D.C. in 1956 during the United States presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was Eisenhower, who after serving as the Allied Supreme Commander of the armies of Europe during World War II, and viewing the horrific devastation of human life and property resulting from that tragic moment in world history, thought there just might be a better way to a lasting peace – trying “citizen diplomacy” rather than “governmental diplomacy”, which had unfortunately resulted in continuing conflicts over the many centuries of humankind.
“Citizen diplomacy” in Eisenhower’s way of thinking was an actual “eyeball to eyeball” interfacing of everyday citizens, meeting personally on each others “turf” (in the U.S. and overseas); learning how each lived, carried on their daily lives, overcame whatever challenges they faced, to bring about an enhanced understanding, and thus respect, of all global citizens. It was envisioned this could be accomplished through exchanges (visitations) of citizens, engaged in the arts, business, civic activities (service clubs, boy/girl scouts, etc), education, sports and government.
Seven years later, in 1963, the Sister City Association of Sarasota SCAS) was formed under the leadership of Dallas Dort and Mayors Marshall Marable and John Binns and the Sarasota City Commission. Considered the “International Arm” of the city of Sarasota, SCAS is headquartered in Sarasota’s City Hall, overseen by the City Clerk and Auditor, and currently receives a stipend from the city which assists in enabling its extensive international citizen exchanges.
Our Sister Cities
Sarasota’s first sister city, circa 1963, was Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Citizen exchange visits began and a street was named in each city for the other community (the block-long Santo Domingo Avenue runs parallel to the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Sarasota). The initial relationship was viewed enthusiastically and cultural and commercial exchanges resulted in a fire truck, medicine, medical supplies and office equipment being sent from Sarasota; an internship was created by Mote Marine laboratories for a marine biologist; school equipment and books were sent to Santo Domingo following a devastating hurricane, County Commissioner David Mills traveled there to represent Sarasota at the Third Western Hemispheric Forum held in Santo Domingo and finally a baseball tournament involving teams from Hamilton, Canada, Santo Domingo and Sarasota was held. However, in later years, activity diminished for lack of citizen exchanges coming to Sarasota and Santo Domingo was placed in “emeritus” status (inactive) in 2002.
Because of the somewhat lanquid Santo Domingo relationship over many years, local interest in the sister cities movement was at a low point until Hope Byrnes as president and Senator Robert Johnson, board chair, assumed office in 1994. Just six short years later, before the end of the 20th century, four foreign cities “twinned” with Sarasota, including:
Hamilton, Canada (1990) (now emeritus)
Perpignan, France (1994)
Vladimir, Russia (1994)
Tel Mond, Israel (1999)
Since the year 2000, four additional cities have created a formal “sister city” relationship with the Sister City Association of Sarasota. They include:
Dunfermline, Scotland (2002)
Treviso, Italy (2007)
Siming District, Xiamen, China (2007)
Merida, Mexico (2011)
The SCAS Organization
SCAS maintains a 501©3 federal tax-exempt status; its expenditures are exempt from state sales tax upon presentation of “Consumer’s Certificate of Exemption” form. In recent years, SCAS, has revised its organizational structure to insure continual exchanges between Sarasota’s citizens and the citizens from its active sister cities, by creating an expanded board of directors, now including a president, secretary and treasurer; the position of “past president”, seven vice presidents, seven city directors, an “events coordinator” (who creates local events to keep our membership informed and interested), a “protocol director” to ensure we are aware of the proper manner in which to host foreign guests and a “youth representative” who keeps area youth informed and interested in international affairs and the work of SCAS.
While the president, secretary and treasurer conduct and record the meetings, business and finances of SCAS, the primary annual “exchanges”, the reason SCAS exists, are the responsibilities of the city directors, with major assistance from the vice presidents who are responsible for maintaining local contacts that can assist when our foreign visitors are in Sarasota.
SCAS operates under a defined set of bylaws, which include job descriptions for each position on the board. Frequent updates of these two documents help us keep pace with our rapidly changing world. For current documents, see
The SCAS is a longtime member of Sister Cities International (SCI), headquartered in Washington D.C. and a current SCAS member (Ronald Gossett) is a member of that board.
Special Events, International Awards
Among the most active “chapters” in Florida, the SCAS has hosted three Florida state annual conventions in May of the following years:
1995 . . . Directed by Hope Byrnes
2005 . . . Directed by Linda Rosenbluth
2013 . . . Directed by John (Tom) Halbert
Recognition by Sister Cities International has also come in three’s (to date)
1998 . . . Best Youth Program Award (Video Boot Camp)
All five sister cities involved
2002 . . . Best Overall Program Award (Dunfermline Signing Ceremony)
All five sister cities involved
2014 . . . First Prize: Innovation: Energy/Sustainability Development - Directed by VP Ray Young