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Hagerstown officials consider sister partnership with Indiana community

September 03, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Located roughly seven hours west right off Interstate 70, a small town in Indiana shares a particular bond with Hagerstown that runs deeper than just its name.

Hagerstown, Ind., a town of about 1,800 people in Wayne County, was settled in 1832 by people who had local connections to Hagerstown, Md., and surrounding areas in Washington County, city resident Mike Keifer said Tuesday.

“We have bloodlines already,” Keifer told Hagerstown City Council members during a work session meeting at City Hall.

Keifer went before the five-member council to seek approval to formally begin a “sister city” partnership with Hagerstown, Ind., much like the relationship the city currently has with Wesel, Germany.

All five council members and Mayor David S. Gysberts were very supportive of the idea.

“Hagerstown, Indiana, is a smaller town ... but I think it will be able to provide a real opportunity,” Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said after the meeting. “I think it’ll be really great.”

Keifer said he stumbled upon the other Hagerstown when he was researching his hometown on the Internet, learning that Indiana was the only other state with a town called Hagerstown.

Elected officials in Hagerstown, Ind., are equally excited about starting the partnership, said Keifer, who brought a signed letter from all five town council members and the town manager voicing their support.

“We believe a sister city relationship can promote cultural and commercial ties between our two communities,” the letter read. “We hope it will encourage tourism and business links in both directions, not only for the two cities, but also between Maryland and Indiana.”

Keifer said the idea is already prompting buzz with the people in Hagerstown, Ind., including many who have already come forward to share stories about their Maryland counterpart and communications with people 460 miles to the east.

The two towns share many of the same organizations, like the American Legion, Lions Club and Rotary, Keifer said.

Along with Hagerstown’s current relationship with Wesel, Keifer said this new bond will only enrich the cultural communities of the two Hagerstowns.

“It will allow us as a group ... to put our footprints in history, where 50, 60 years down the road when you’re still celebrating the sister city relationship with Wesel, Germany, you’re also celebrating the sister city relationship with Hagerstown, Indiana,” he said.

Keifer said two officials in Hagerstown, Ind. — Town Manager Robert Warner and Councilman Brian Longbons — will be coming east near the end of September to attend the wedding of Warner’s son in the Harrisburg area.

He hopes to have the formal agreement between the two cities completed in time to bring Warner to the city council meeting on Oct. 1 to introduce him to his Washington County counterparts.

“This is something I think needs to happen. It’s long overdue,” he said. “I’m excited, and you can tell by the council meeting tonight, everyone in there is excited, too.”

Keifer said he has already begun organizing a committee of community leaders to help develop ideas for interacting with the new sister city, including possibly arranging a bus trip in the future.

“I’ve got so many ideas that I want to approach different people about to where they can get involved in this thing on a more personal basis,” he said. “This thing is just going to grow.”

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