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About the Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission

Besançon, France. Poggio a Caiano, Italy. Winneba, Ghana. These are Charlottesville's Sister Cities. Appointed by City Council, the CSSC embodies Sister Cities International’s mission: To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.

The City of Charlottesville shares a variety of things in common with its Sister Cities: Similar economic climates. University communities. An emphasis on the arts. Memorable landscapes. A connected history. And an ever-widening cross-cultural network of friends and colleagues committed to peace through people.

Establishing a Sister Cities relationship is a process that takes several years.  
We choose a Sister City much the same way people choose a friend: First, we get “introduced” through citizen suggestions or requests from a city itself. Then, we look for common interests, a mutual desire to connect, ease of communication, the chance of visiting each other, and the likelihood that the bond will last a long time. In particular, we want to be sure the two cities can share in cultural, educational, medical, governmental, economic, humanitarian, or other activities.

The Sister Cities network was the brainchild of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who introduced it at his White House Conference on Citizen Diplomacy in 1956. Sister Cities International creates and strengthens relationships based on cultural, educational, information,and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person "citizen diplomacy."

Who We Are

The Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission is composed of representatives from the following areas: 

  • 1 from business community

  • 1 from higher educational institution

  • 1 citizen representing each sister city

  • 1 city staff member acting as liaison

  • 1 from K-12 educational institution 

  • 1 youth representative

  • 5 citizens at large

  • 1 additional member to represent each sister city

The charge of the Commission is as follows:  Plan and coordinate Sister City activities; seek private funding for activities and operations; promote Sister Cities to the community; establish guidelines for future Sister Cities; establish subcommittee for each Sister City; advise and oversee staffing; and evaluate need for non-profit entity.

When a commissioner post is vacant, CSSC posts that vacancy on this website and at Charlottesville residents receive priority consideration, non-residents are also eligible for these positions.

Sister City Commissioners
Daman Irby (Chair and Higher Education representative)
Stella Mattioli (Poggio a Caiano representative)
Elizabeth Smiley (Besançon representative)
Nana Akyeampong-Ghartey (Winneba representative)

Claire Denton-Spalding (citizen at large)

Adrienne Ward (citizen at large)
Michael Grinnell (citizen at large)
Edward Herring (citizen at large)

Kyna Thomas (Staff Liaison, Charlottesville Clerk of Council)

Alicen Brown (K-12 education representative)
Vacant (business representative)

Vivien Wong (youth representative)

Sylvia New Strawn (citizen at large)

How to Get Involved 


​Volunteer for an event or project. Apply for a grant. Inquire about a commissioner position. Or just attend a monthly meeting or special program. We welcome all Charlottesville area residents to connect with us!  


Volunteers who wish to assist with Sister City events and projects should contact us about opportunities. They need not be city residents. Contact us to volunteer.


Grant applicants may be city residents, non-residents, or area organizations (nonprofits, businesses, schools, etc.); grant projects must benefit the City of Charlottesville. Obtain an application and read about projects we have sponsored.

Commissioners are typically city residents but may be non-residents. Check for vacancies or download an application.

Our monthly meetings are open to the public and take place the third Tuesday of every month. Our location varies, so please contact us about attending.

Proposing a new Sister City requires an application that includes assembling a group of interested citizens committed to supporting the relationship and establishing equally committed contacts in the proposed city. Read more about the process.



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