It’s not uncommon to see a few Italian political leaders at various functions that the Army holds throughout the year at Caserme Ederle.

But base officials hope that an event Friday brings together a lot of the local leaders all at once. The Army is sponsoring a "Meet the Mayors" day on base, giving soldiers a chance to find out about the cities and towns where they live, while giving local Italian leaders an opportunity to meet with and talk to base leadership.

"Based on the RSVPs we’ve received, it seems to be a very popular idea among the Italian communities and mayors," said Col. Erik Daiga, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza.

Through Monday, 24 mayors and four deputy mayors have said they’ll attend. In all, leaders from 38 communities where Americans either live or frequently visit will be on hand.

Achille Variati, the mayor of Vicenza — the largest community in the area — had yet to respond.

Variati has been a vocal critic of U.S. plans to use the Dal Molin airfield for barracks and offices for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. Daiga acknowledged that issue could be a topic of discussion when the mayors meet over lunch with top base officials, including Brig. Gen. William Garrett, the commander of the Southern European Task Force.

"(The mayors) will have a chance to ask questions, and we’ll certainly answer them," Daiga said. "We’ll present information from our perspective."

But that particular issue isn’t the reason behind the event, Daiga said. Rather, it’s modeled after Army attempts in the States to reach out to the local communities surrounding bases.

"We thought, ‘why can’t we do it here in an overseas community?’ " Daiga said, noting that such a large-scale attempt hasn’t been tried before in Vicenza.

There are several other likely topics of discussion in addition to Dal Molin. The Army is hoping to locate small build-to-lease communities in towns around Vicenza, for instance. Local Italian leaders often complain about little interaction with Americans living in their communities and the base will welcome suggestions on how to increase interaction.

Daiga said the event itself is one way to do that. Before the mayors meet with base officials, they’ve been invited to set up booths and meet with soldiers who live in their communities from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They’re expected to talk about festivals and things to do in their towns as well as answer specific questions.

"It’s an opportunity to meet my mayor," Daiga said on why a servicemember or DOD civilian might want to stop by the newly opened Arena entertainment complex. "I can ask questions about the town I’m living in and you don’t get a lot of these kinds of opportunities."

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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