Dedeaux Road & Australia (The Experience)

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Progress on Dedeaux Road

Mississippi Engineering Group provided the following update for the status of Phase I of the Dedeaux Road Widening Project for April 2017.

Dedeaux Rd Status Report 4-4-17 by rleeflowers on Scribd

As quick comparison to last month’s update shows that we’ve reigned in the timeline and construction start moved up by about 1 month. Instead of the end of July, it is now the end of June.

My Trip to Australia

When I talked to alumni of the American Council for Young Political Leaders program before my trip, they would all tell me that this trip would be work and not a vacation. I would kind of chuckle under my breath and brush off that statement. Surely, any program like this couldn’t be work. Boy, oh boy, were they ever right!

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you had opportunity to experience my trip to Australia through my posts. For the first 6 days in Australia, I thought Australia looked like four walls. Ok, maybe that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I did see some of it in the dark on my morning runs. Regardless, the program allowed me to meet with many of Australia’s leaders.

I was fortunate to be selected to a delegation of tremendous leaders, and we have built friendships that will last a lifetime.

We first met in Washington, DC and after 27 hours of travel, started our Australian experience in Canberra, Australia’s national capital. (Yes, Australia spells it capital not capitol.) We met with Senators and Representatives (Members of Parliament, MPs) of every major party in Parliament. We met with ministers (the governing party’s MPs in charge of departments, similar to our President’s cabinet secretaries), shadow ministers (the opposition party’s point person who is responsible for being that party’s expert on a department), backbenchers (members of parliament who don’t have responsibility over a department), and crossbenchers (members of smaller political parties who oftentime become very powerful swing votes).

These pictures show my delegation, the 33rd ACYPL delegation to Australia, meeting with the Speaker of the House.

We left that meeting and went directly to a meeting with the President of the Senate.

A real treat in the capital was the lunch we had with Representatives and Senators that are sponsors and previous participants in this exchange program and hearing their explanation of how the program helped them in their duties as elected officials.

In Melbourne, we met with the Right Honorable Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. His charisma and intellect was apparent from the start. There is no doubt that he is the driving force behind his city being named the most livable city in the world by The Economist magazine for the last 6 straight years.

A little trivia: the Queen of England changed the title of Melbourne’s Mayor to Lord Mayor after the city’s second cathedral was built.

We also met with the mayor and city council of Banyule, a suburb of Melbourne, that is more similar in population to Gulfport. It was interesting to learn that have very similar challenges to ours that they face daily, too. Or as they like to say, “Local government is about roads, rates, and rubbish.”

In Sydney, we focused on state government and spent considerable time at New South Wales Parliament, the oldest parliament in Australia. We were welcomed by a group of parliamentarians from the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly.

A great highlight for me was lunch in the private dining room of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Speaker Hancock was most gracious during lunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting next to and conversing with her. Later that afternoon, I appreciated the kindness she had shown me even more when I saw her firmly keep control of the “bear pit” during question time in the Legislative Assembly. She knows how to quickly squelch the roar of raucous parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle with tact, vigor, and a little sting.

Mixed into our itinerary, we had meetings on numerous special topics from economic development to human rights. Every discussion was hosted by experts in their fields. It was a tremendous honor to meet so many of Australia’s leaders in their respective fields.

Please feel free to visit my Facebook page to see more photos from my trip:

Australia is about the size of the contiguous 48 states but has the population of roughly Texas — around 24 million people. So, while I was able to visit Australia, there is much more than I was able to see. However, I am very confident in saying that Australians are our friends and are very proud of the special relationship that they have with us.

Personally, this was a trip of a lifetime and the best hard-work-trip I’ve ever experienced. It was my honor to represent the citizens of Gulfport and the USA on this exchange.

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