Two high-ranking women in Vermont state leadership are heading out on a first-of-its kind diplomatic mission, expanding a relationship that previously was focused on military and security issues.
The Vermont National Guard has had a partnership with what is now known as North Macedonia for more than 25 years, providing military training to the former Yugoslav Republic.
With this trip, the relationship is expanding to address economic issues of interest to the international partners.
Vermont’s commerce secretary, Lindsay Kurrle, and lieutenant governor, Molly Gray, are leaving this weekend on a mission to North Macedonia to grow the international connection.
Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, the commander of the Vermont National Guard, will also be on the trip. While Knight has existing relationships with officials in North Macedonia, he said he is glad to see the partnership broadened to include non-military issues.
Agriculture, higher education and tourism are on the agenda for a busy schedule of meetings and site visits, the representatives said.
Kurrle noted that Vermont and North Macedonia are both known for ski resorts and hiking trails.
“I also realize there is much expertise already in that country, and I’m eager to bring learnings back to Vermont to improve our own outdoor recreation economy,” Kurrle said.
The delegation will represent bipartisan leadership. Kurrle serves in the administration of Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, and Gray is a Democrat.
The pair said they are proud to represent Vermont as women in leadership positions.
“We’ll be meeting with women business leaders; the U.S. ambassador is a woman,” Gray noted. “We can’t talk about economic security in Vermont or anywhere in the world without talking about women and having women at the table.”
Knight said the visit by civic and military leaders is even more important now that North Macedonia recently joined NATO as its 30th ally.
The group leaves this weekend and will return late next week.