Three flags greet people when they arrive at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Facility in Golden: the U.S. flag, the Colorado flag and the Jefferson County flag.
On Jan. 29, however, the county's flag came down and Taiwan's went up in its place, signifying a 20-year relationship between Jeffco and Pingtung County, the southernmost county in Taiwan.
"This is a good year to celebrate," said Alexander Chang, chairman of the English drama school in Pingtung County. Chang is also a chairman of the sister county program and has been involved with it since it began in 1989.
Chang said the program has benefited students at his school in Taiwan over the years, with many of his students coming to Jeffco and students from Red Rocks Community College going to Taiwan. Chang brought several of his students on the current trip, and they visited the Colorado Capitol, Jefferson County government and several historical sites around Evergreen.
"The program brings the two counties' friendship, relationship close," Chang said after his nation's flag was raised in front of the Taj Mahal.
Chang cited some differences between the two counties. Most notable to him is the number of county officials.
"In Pingtung County, there are 54 council members," Chang said with a laugh. "It's strange that here there are just three commissioners."
"It is a relationship that has gone back 20 years," said Jeffco Commissioner Kathy Hartman. "We welcome this delegation from Taiwan, and we're very happy that this has been an enduring relationship, and we are very happy members of our historical commission were able to help us provide the students a broader view of Jefferson County and Colorado than they've had in previous trips." Hartman credited Paula Hutman of the Jeffco Historical Commission for coordinating the activities.
Jeffco spokeswoman Kathryn Heider said the arrangement began in 1989 when then-Commissioner John Stone traveled to Taiwan. He met some government officials there and established the sister-county relationship, Heider said.
There was some confusion about how exactly to fly another nation's flag on government property during discussions earlier in the week. Jeffco Commissioner Faye Griffin told Hartman during the Jan. 27 staff briefings that she wanted to avoid a situation in which another nation's flag was more prominent than the U.S. flag.
"There was a lot of to-do about when the Cinco de Mayo thing went on," Griffin said, apparently referring to the May 2006 immigration rally in downtown Denver. Pro-immigrant marchers prominently displayed the Mexican flag, drawing criticism from some who said they should have been waving American flags.
"We don't want to do something that is perceived that we like Taiwan more than we like ourselves," Griffin said. "Because we don't."
After studying the U.S. Flag Code, Jeffco facilities management learned that it’s OK to fly another nation’s flag as long as Old Glory is flying higher, and the brief Jan. 29 ceremony went off without a hitch.