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FD officials head to sister city of Gjakova

Fort Dodge and the city of Gjakova in the European nation of Kosovo came together across the globe to form a new bond as sister cities a little more than three years ago.

Today, four representatives of the local community are traveling to the Balkans to renew that bond. And while they’re in Gjakova, they’ll be on hand when a public right of way is named after Fort Dodge.

”Fort Dodge plays a role internationally with our connections,” Mayor Matt Bemrich said.

Many of those connections are economic ones because of the growing international ties of local businesses, he said.

Maintaining a sister city relationship with Gjakova ”shows our ability to understand that diversity in the world economy” he added.

Bemrich is being joined on the trip by Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Central Community College; Julie Thorson, president and chief executive officer of Friendship Haven; and Dawn Larson, the economic development specialist for the city of Fort Dodge.

The group left Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota Saturday night for a nearly 24-hour trip that includes tops in Paris, France, and Frankfurt, Germany, before arriving in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. The group will return to Fort Dodge Thursday.

The chain of events that brought Fort Dodge and Gjakova together started during a series of civil wars in late 1990s and the early 2000s as the former nation of Yugoslavia broke up. Troops from the Iowa Army National Guard were sent there as peacekeepers, starting in 2003. Iowa troops returned to Kosovo in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. What began as a purely military connection between Iowa soldiers and their Kosovo counterparts evolved into a bigger connection between the state and the Balkan nation.

A six-member delegation from Kosovo visited Fort Dodge in April 2016, as the process of becoming sister cities gained traction.

Bemrich and the former mayor of Gjakova signed the first sister city agreement in Fort Dodge in December 2016.

An updated version of that agreement is to be signed by Bemrich and Adrian Gjini, the mayor of Gjakova.

On Tuesday, the local group will travel to City Park in Gjakova for the dedication of Fort Dodge Lane.

The group also has a full slate of meetings with government officials, professors at the University of Gjakova, and health care professionals.

Bemrich, Kinney, and Chad Schaeffer, the city’s director of engineering, business affairs and community growth, visited Gjakova in June 2017.