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(BAY CITY, MICH.) Leaders from the City of Bay City and our German Sister City met virtually today to talk about the common ground our communities share, despite an ocean and 4,200 miles between us. Bay City and Ansbach – a German city in the state of Bavaria – have been Sister Cities since 1961. Today Mayor Kathleen Newsham and City Manager Dana Muscott spoke with Ansbach Lord Mayor Thomas Deffner and Director of City Marketing and Tourism Melanie Herrmann. The bulk of the conversation focused on how both communities have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. While Michigan has largely reopened, Ansbach has many virus-related restrictions in place including mask mandates indoors and outdoors. Lord Mayor Deffner said he’s likened mask usage to driving on the German interstate. “I say when you have the right car you can drive on the interstate if you want to at 160 miles an hour, but you don't have to do it. You can also drive 50 miles an hour. And this is what I also say for masks. For maximum security, please wear a mask. It's better for us.”
Mayor Newsham and Manager Muscott shared how the City of Bay City has managed the pandemic. “We were lucky with our employees. We were able to maintain the workforce. Many worked from home,” Mayor Newsham shared, adding the city was able to keep the budget in line as well. “We didn't have to go into any of our savings in order to maintain the services and the quality of life that we had here in a city, so I think we're very blessed.” And while restrictions have been lifted, life is not completely back to normal. “Many businesses are not able to find workers, people are not returning to their jobs. And so businesses have to shorten their hours, their supplies are very low, things are backordered,” Manager Muscott said. “So, in that aspect I do worry about our business community.”
Not only has the global pandemic highlighted the similarities between our two communities, it has also increased the excitement level for when we are able to safely celebrate our 60-year partnership, in person! Initially anniversary celebrations had been planned for this year but we decided to hold-off until 2022. A group from Bay City, including Manager Muscott, will travel to Ansbach this fall to meet with Ansbach leaders for a small get-together. Then next year both cities will host anniversary celebrations. The German event is planned for June 26-July 4, 2022, while Bay City’s is Sept. 14-19, 2022. A community celebration will take place Sept. 17.
Our historic cities became connected following the end of World War II. For a time, the state of Bavaria was controlled by the United States Army. At the same time, people from West Germany immigrated to the U.S. with some settling in the Bay City area. While the American military presence in Ansbach has shrunk drastically since the reunification of Germany in 1990, German heritage remains strong in our region – making the continued Sister City connection valuable for both communities.