With his days in office dwindling away, Bill Baarsma still has one last
junket trip in him.
Tacoma’s mayor will be catching a red-eye flight to Taiwan on Saturday to participate in an international economic development conference. The six-day trip comes at the invitation of Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung — a sister city to Tacoma that Baarsma previously visited in 2002.
“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere these last few months,” Baarsma told me in a phone call today. “But he (Hu) recently extended me the invitation.”
Baarsma’s trip — the airfare and hotel accommodations of which will be covered by Taichung’s mayor — will be an opportunity to strengthen Tacoma’s sister city relations with Taichung, as well as Baarsma’s relationship with Hu, he said.
“It will be an opportunity really to see him again,” Baarsma said. “He’s an incredible person. Oxford-educated, very-well connected.”
The mayor added he’ll also seek to promote and learn more about international economic development opportunities for Tacoma. Baarsma will be joined on the trip by a Tacoma city staffer who has family in Taiwan, he added. The staffer, who works on transportation issues for the city, will attend a transportation forum while at the conference, Baarsma said.
Although most of the mayor’s Taiwan trip is covered, the city will need to pony up for Baarsma’s conference registration fee.
“That’s the only thing the city is paying for,” said Baarsma, who, after a combined 16 years on the council and in the mayor’s office, is term-limited at year’s end.
Total cost to the city? $900, Baarsma said.