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Rochester mayor visits sister cities in Germany; talks energy, sustainability

Mayor interview 3

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Rochester Mayor Kim Norton is back in town, after a trip to Rochester's sister cities in Germany.

Mayor Norton said there is a trip every year to Rochester's sister city, Münster, in Germany. City leaders talked about energy and sustainability.

This year, Norton added an extra stop to Moosburg, Germany, another sister city.

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"Germany takes climate protection very seriously," Norton said. "It is on the top of their mind in everything that they do."

Norton's visit to Germany this month was made possible by a grant from the University of Minnesota's Department of the Institute on the Environment. The agreement was made back when former mayor Ardell Brede was in office.

"We go there, we learn from them, they come here, they learn from us, and we share what we're doing to protect the environment on the areas of energy and sustainability in particular," Norton said.

This year electric buses, greenhouse gas reduction, and making buildings more sustainable were the main focus.

In addition to the various meetings and presentations, Norton said they visited recycling factories, technology manufacturing firms, and a bus garage that houses electric buses.

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"The idea that we're going to start with electric buses in the next year, they've been on order now for some time, they have not yet been delivered," Norton said. "I think it was clear to me in touring Munster's electric bus garage that they have learned ahead of us about some do's and some don't, what are the challenges, and we can learn from them."

The 11-day trip was originally supposed to happen last year but was postponed until this month because of the pandemic.

"Germany's COVID rates are low and they aren't having the peaks that we're having now, but they are being very cautious," Norton said. "And so, again, we took precautions having put this off a year. Very strict precautions about being tested before we went, carrying vaccination care with us at all times, having daily COVID tests, so it felt very safe the whole time we were there."

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The mayor says she believes these international partnerships are helpful, allowing participating cities to learn from each other, especially when it comes to energy and sustainability.

Norton said the only place she felt nervous or uncomfortable during the trip was on the airplane. She says she chose to wear an N-95 mask as an extra precaution.

Sarah Gannon

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