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Marvelous Mayor Marello

In the long history of Medford’s partnership with Alba, mayors of both cities have played a major role in bringing our two cities together. We have had the privilege and pleasure of getting to know the mayors who have done so much for their cities and for our “gemellaggio”. Many of Alba’s mayors have gone on to higher office in the provincial, regional and national governments. Without exception they have been very supportive of the program begun during the term of Alba’s Mayor Osvaldo Cagnasso. Five Alba mayors have traveled to Medford during or after their terms as mayor. Two former Alba mayors are active members of their Alba-Medford sister city committee as are three children of former Alba mayors.

Medford was introduced to Alba’s current mayor Maurizio Marello in July of 2010 when he led the Alba delegation to Medford for the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of Medford and Alba becoming sister cities. From the group’s arrival at the Medford airport it was clear to the hosts in Medford that Alba’s new mayor was both dynamic and delightful, in a word "simpatico". He was an integral part of all the festivities but always an unassuming and gracious guest.

When the Medford delegation visited Alba the following October they saw another side of Mayor Marello. The anniversary celebration in Alba coincided with the opening of Alba’s annual Truffle Festival. This is a time when the world descends on Alba. Celebrities and dignitaries from Italy, Europe and the world play prominently in the festival. It is when the Mayor of Alba is in the spotlight and in great demand. Mayor Marello welcomed his guests from Medford as though they were the most important people in town at the moment. Clearly they were not. Alba’s other guests at the time included the Italian Interior Minister, the President of the Region of Piemonte, The Mayor of Torino and noted singer-songwriter-painter Franco Battiato. From the ceremony for the dedication of Via John Snider (Link) to a farewell meeting in Alba’s city hall, he was warmly welcoming, attentive and ever solicitous to the needs of his Medford visitors.

During the past year I have watched the daily life of our friends in Alba through several web sites and correspondence with friends. Seeing what Mayor Marello does in the course of his duties as mayor is dumbfounding. His job description is obviously far broader than that of the mayor of Medford but his approach to problem solving is nothing short of amazing.

His year began with a brutal incursion of arctic air that left Alba and all of the region in dire straits. In addition to historically low temperatures, Alba was faced with a shortage of natural gas and impassible roads. In Alba, it is the mayor who decides when schools must close for inclement weather. Mayor Marello took all this in stride even though his constituents often took exception to his decisions to keep schools open or to close them. He made sure that the people of Alba were well informed about how to deal with the crisis.

With this weather disaster behind him, Mayor Marello was challenged by the realities of the Italian economy. In the wave of fiscal austerity that was sweeping Europe, it was small communities like Alba that bore the brunt of high level cost cutting decisions. One of the first symptoms of the problem was the decision that the tribunal in Alba would be merged with the court in Asti, requiring the citizens of Alba to seek justice in a neighboring community. Mayor Marello not only opposed the measure but organized his peers to work together to block the decree.  Mayor Marello convened a meeting which included the mayor of Bra, former mayor and now Senator Tomaso Zanoletti, the leaders of the local bar and others to look at how the cuts can be avoided.

A similar situation occurred with regional transportation when rail service to Alba and surrounding communities was drastically curtailed by the regional government. Once again, Mayor Marello took the lead in organizing the opposition. Not only did he enlist other mayors in opposing the cuts but more recently he has been involved in initiatives to increase essential rail service between Torino and Bra.

If cuts to the courts system and transportation were not enough to deal with, Mayor Marello has been on the leading edge of opposition to cuts to the educational system. When the University of Torino announced elimination of classes in Alba, Cuneo and Savigliano, Mayor Marello was at the forefront of a joint effort of the mayors of these cities to maintain the vital services in their communities.

Mayor Marello has also taken an active role in private sector matters. When the workers of the Miroglio factory in Ginosa, in the region of Puglia, marched on the Alba headquarters of the textile giant in Alba, protesting the loss of their jobs to a plant closure, Mayor Marello intervened on their behalf. The situation was amicably resolved and, before leaving Alba, the protesters gathered in Piazza Risorgimento to salute Mayor Marello.

Mayor Marello’s activism goes beyond governance and economic matters. Mayor Marello has been a leader in the relief effort for the victims of devastating earthquakes in Emilia Romana and Abruzzo. He has consoled his city when they lost valued members of the community such as former mayor Francesco Sobrereo and the widows of former mayor Osvaldo Cagnasso and noted author Beppe Fenoglio. Mayor Marello solemnly honored the fallen heroes of the Italian resistance and the victims of Alba’s 1994 flood. He has paid great tribute and provided inspiration to the many volunteers of his community.

For Americans, the sight of the mayor marching for peace would be strange indeed. The image of Mayor Marello wearing his tri-colored sash and following the rainbow banner of peace through the streets of Alba says much about the man and about the city of Alba. Alba has a department dedicated to peace and Mayor Marello is an outspoken advocate for peace.

Just this year Mayor Marello has made official visits to Alba’s sister cities in Spain and Germany and has received delegations from other sister cities. He spoke via Skype with his counterpart in Medford, Gary Wheeler, during the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the historic Telstar (Link) telephone call between the mayors of Medford and Alba. In November, he traveled to Brussels to receive the 2013 European Sports City award for his city.

Mayor Marello is exemplary of the things we need in our leaders and public servants and a role model for mayors on both sides of the exchange. It his hard to imagine that he will not be called to higher office but, while he remains Alba’s mayor, Alba will continue to prosper and its global friendships will grow. No matter what his next office, Medford and the sister city program will always have a very special and influential friend in Alba.

Doug Snider