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City chiefs here and in S Africa plan swap

If the temporary exchange is approved, the city managers of Treasure Island and Port Shepstone will switch places.

To learn more about coastal issues, City Manager Chuck Coward may travel to South Africa next year as Treasure Island's ambassador.

Coward applied in December to participate in a city manager exchange through the International City Management Association, which has connections with 10 countries.

When a match is made, each manager spends three weeks in another country. For possible exchanges, Coward listed Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Slovakia.

"We had a group of exchange students here from Slovakia last year," he said.

In his application, Coward said he wanted to study coastal issues, including storm management and beach preservation, and techniques for balancing residential and tourist policies.

Last month, he was notified that the association had found a match in Port Shepstone, on the east coast of South Africa on the Indian Ocean. The city has a diverse population of moderate- to lower-income residents, Coward said.

Port Shepstone's manager, Kogan Moodley, would come to Treasure Island, where he wants to study expanding electric and water utilities as well as public housing.

Coward said he at first informed the association that he didn't think Treasure Island could offer Moodley much information because it doesn't operate its own power or water companies and the city has no public housing.

"But then I thought, how myopic of me," Coward said. "Everything he needs is here in Pinellas County."

Coward said the association also matched him with Moodley because both have about 30 years of experience in municipal management and both wanted to learn about cultural issues. In South Africa, Coward would be able to visit nearby communities with tourism interests.

"If it happens, Mr. Moodley would come here this October and I would go there in June or July of next year," Coward said.

He plans to ask city commissioners next month to consider the exchange program. But they discussed the issue during his annual evaluation last week, and said they were in favor of the idea.

"You stay in the home of your exchange partner, so my expenses really would be quite limited," Coward said. The cost would be about $3,000, most of it for the airline ticket. Coward said he planned to pay for his wife, Carol, to accompany him.

"I would certainly be willing to give up some of the other conventions to make up for that," said Coward, who regularly attends state and national city manager conferences. But commissioners said they didn't want him to miss those workshops.