He may have seen the Eiffel Tower many times on TV, but now Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson will get to see the historical landmark up close and personal when he travels to Paris for the first time next week.
Olson will play village ambassador to French officials from the French-American Foundation, a 31-year-old non-government organization that links and strengthens diplomatic relations between France and the United States. The conference celebrates the 250th anniversary of French soldier and American ally Marquis de Lafayette's birth.
"It's a chance for the French to reach out to the Americans and explain their culture to the Americans, and the Americans to the French," said Olson. "And this anniversary of LaFayette's 250th birthday is a chance for them to reach out to us."
History, culture, values and international dialogue will take place during the three-day program, which is mainly paid for by the foundation. Olson and Trustee Mike Small -- who is invited as the mayor's guest -- will pick up the rest of the tab.
"No taxpayer money is being used," Olson said about the transatlantic journey, adding that the invitation was thoroughly examined by four layers of government before they committed to come.
"It was run through the New York State Comptroller's office, NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors), the village board and the ethics board before we agreed to go on the trip," he said.
Olson will be among other American-elected representatives also invited to the event. Each one is expected to give a presentation about the village or town they govern. Olson said he is compiling historical information on Fayetteville with the help of Small and town historian Barbara Rivette. He said he plans to note the Stickley Museum and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation as unique features to the village.
"I'm the face of Fayetteville, N.Y. going over there and to me, I want to make sure that I do our residents proud," he said. "I could talk to anybody until I'm blue in the face about Fayetteville because I love doing it. So I'm hoping to bring that passion over and show them what makes Fayetteville so special and why I think it's one of the greatest places to live in America."