Politics & Government

Hilton Head leaders will travel to Italian sister city in June. Who’s paying for it?

Later this month, about 30 Hilton Head Islanders will head to Verona, Italy for a “friendship city pact” ceremony with the city’s mayor and delegates.

Three of those trips will be funded by the Town of Hilton Head Island: Mayor John McCann, Town Manager Steve Riley, and Riley’s wife, Mary Jo.

The trip in total is expected to cost “a couple of thousand a piece,” Riley said. Roundtrip airfare to Verona is around $1,400 per person for Riley and his wife, Mary Jo, he said.

“My trip will be reimbursed and, pursuant to my contract, that will also cover Mary Jo’s (trip),” he said Monday.

The members of the Italian-American Club will be paying their own way for the eight-day trip, according to the president of the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head, John DeCecco.

Night view of Verona, Italy. mihtiander Getty Images/iStockphoto

When McCann and Riley are in Italy with the club, they will participate in a gift exchange with the mayor of Verona and council members, visit the opera and take a tour of Lake Garda outside of Verona, DeCecco said.

The group will stay in 4.5-star hotels and also take a trip to Venice, he said.

How did Hilton Head become sister cities with Verona?

Town Council members unanimously approved the “friendship pact” with Verona in June 2017, according to reporting by The Island Packet.

At the time, then-assistant town manager Greg DeLoach said the next step was for local leaders to visit Verona to sign the agreement — although it’s not required.

As expected, Verona is popular. It’s already sister cities with Fresno, California, and Albany, New York.

Riley said the agreement with Verona is the first type of sister city pact that Hilton Head has been involved in and there’s “much to be learned,” from its leaders.

The pact is meant to encourage travel between the cities and an understanding of the respective cultures, according to DeCecco. He hopes to establish an exchange program for students between the two cities in the coming years.


Asked how the trip will be classified, Riley said it would be governmental business.

“It’s something we’re doing to develop our relationship with Verona,” he said.

McCann’s daughter, Karen, is accompanying him and will not be reimbursed by the town for the trip, according to Riley.

A call to McCann on Monday was not returned.

Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.