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Rotterdam City Clerk visits Smith, MacKenzie Hall

By Staff | Sep 8, 2010

Jaap Paans, left, Rotterdam City Clerk, points out to Sanibel City Clerk Pamela Smith where he and his family watched dolphins during their stay on the island.

Although it wasn’t technically considered an official visit, the vacation on Sanibel by Jaap Paans and his family from Dordecht, Holland was time well spent.

Paans, Rotterdam City Clerk, was invited to Sanibel’s MacKenzie Hall last week by City Clerk Pamela Smith, who visited The Netherlands last year as part of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks International Exchange Program.

"I met the (International Institute of Municipal Clerks) Vice Chair in 2009," said Jaap, who began his family’s vacation on July 5 in San Francisco, Calif. "I’m working with him to get VvG (Netherlands Clerks Program) certification. It means a lot in that position."

Last year, Smith traveled to Gennep and Maasbree, The Netherlands where she and her local host City Clerk — Andries Knevel — exchanged professional ideas while sharing a personal and cultural experience.

"Andries and I forged an immediate professional and personal friendship that will long endure the passage of time and distance between us," said Smith. "We communicate on a regular basis and share stories of family members and pets that we know on each other’s side of the Atlantic."

Kneval also visited Sanibel last year. He met with city employees, department directors and toured the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Island Water Association, SCCF, Sanibel Public Library and Sanibel Fire Rescue District.

During the Paans family’s sabbatical, they toured much of America’s western coastal states in an RV, visited three national parks and, of course, stopped for a day at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

"The kids met Mickey Mouse… but they LOVED meeting Minnie!" he noted.

Upon arriving on Sanibel, Paans said that he was "stunned" by the difference he saw between the island and other cities they visited in the United States.

"Everything here is very calm," he added. "There are not so many cars on the roads, and the roads are very clean."

Paans was also impressed by the condition of public areas and the level of services available to handicapped persons.

"People understand that this is a sanctuary area, where they can be at one with nature," he said. "On one side of the street, you can see an alligator. On the other, you can see dolphins."

Smith said that she was very happy that Jaap and his family had the opportunity to see how things work on Sanibel, as well as what responsibilities she as City Clerk performs on a daily basis.

"The (Municipal Clerks International Exchange) program was such a great experience for me to take part in," said Smith. "People have been so willing to share their thoughts and ideas and culture with you. If there were an opportunity to do that again, I definitely would."

So would Paans.

"You can communicate with people all over the world on the Internet," he added, "but it’s not the same as what you experience when you’re talking with somebody in person."