Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska interviews the new mayor of Heerlen, Mr Roel Wever about his priorities, role of youth and internationals in Heerlen.
Roel Wever was installed as a mayor of Heerlen on 28 September. He was born in 1962 in Amsterdam and has been living in Heerlen for 25 years. He is married to Miranda and is a father of three daughters and two sons. Roel Wever served also as a senator of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska: You have said in your inauguration speech that you want to change Heerlen and that Heerlen will be unique. What would you like to change, improve, what are your priorities?
Roel Wever: I would mention here four main fields. First of all we as a municipality are for our inhabitants. The city has to be clean and safe. If the inhabitants expect something we should be able to say yes. And if it is not that easy we should see how it can be achieved in a different way, what the alternative is. So, in other words not always saying that something is impossible but trying to find a solution. So in short that we will offer our services with a smile.
The second is public order and safety. In Heerlen many things are well – organised and at the same time we face some social and economic problems. We as a municipality have to make sure that the problems with safety and public order should be faced and solved in the centre and all the districts. Criminal activities will not be accepted. At the same time we should also offer help to those who need it, who are not criminals in their heart and because of social and economic reasons were tempted to for example have one or two cannabis plants in their attic. We need to provide care and make sure they will not commit that sort of activities any more.
The third thing is quality of life. In the past the Glaspaleis was renovated, the Pancratiusplein was renovated, Maankwartier was built. But there are also places which need to be improved and we have already a few interesting projects to realize and my role is that all the parties will work on it. The local government, central government, IBA, etc. I want to make sure that they city will have more appeal and that the districts which so far has not taken advantage of various projects now will have a chance to do it. For example we will carry out a big project in Heerlen Noord together with 15 other municipalities.
Last but not least the regional cooperation. German city of Aachen wants to cooperate with us in the fields of mobility, culture, education. We also research the possibility of starting an intercity connection between Den Haag, via Eindhoven, to Heerlen and Aachen. And here is my role as a connector, to see with the neighbours how we can together cooperate in the Parkstad region, South Limburg region and international-euro region.
So cooperation which is also based on exchanging of ideas between partners, being open to ideas from outside?
Yes, definitely. This cooperation has to be definitely initiated and carried out by the involved parties. So for example if the companies and educational instances will not work together, come up with the ideas we will not be able to achieve much. The government cannot do things alone, it needs partners. Look, we have to facilitate companies who work at improving and developing of this region. They will offer jobs and education possibilities for their staff.
Yes, and this is also connected with what you mentioned: quality of life. People will easier choose to live in Heerlen if it offers the right quality of life.
Yes, exactly, these aspects are closely connected. We can offer quite a lot in Heerlen already and will try to make Heerlen more appealing. And it would be fantastic if we could offer people jobs to solve their difficult economic situations.
You also said “Youth is central. Youth creates change. ” You certainly know that very well as a father of 5 children! How do you see the role of the youth here? What can they do for Heerlen? What is their strength?
Yes, the role of youth is essential and I related it to the situation in the centre of Heerlen. It is a pity that most educational institutions are built outside the centre of Heerlen. I would prefer to move their activities to the centre. By doing this you make the centre more lively, you support local entrepreneurs because the students and staff will order for example a sandwich for lunch, drink coffee. It will be better for them since they will be also located more close to the railway station so that would increase mobility. And if these young people are finally in the centre you can easier involve them in the discussion about how to make the centre more appealing, what is missing. Do you want to think with us, help us? And if they are more often in the centre they will be also maybe more inclined in the future to live here.
So you make youth more involved in the city and in the issues which matter in the city. You help them to create the bond with Heerlen.
Yes, they will get more inclined to be involved and you will create another dynamics in Heerlen. This is what we need.
You moved to Heerlen from Amsterdam 25 years ago. You know very well what it is like to leave your own familiar place and build a new life. Many internationals live in Heerlen. What do you want to do for them as a mayor?
As a mayor of Heerlen I would like to make sure that internationals would feel at home in Heerlen. It is important that they would feel that they are integral part of the society in Heerlen, that they take part in all aspects of our life. That they will have a feeling that there are no differences between them and people born in Heerlen and that together we can make Heerlen a better city. Internationals are very well – educated, bring here their expertise, knowledge and experience which they gained in other countries. It is precious. We shall take advantage of this knowledge, expertise, experience and look at Heerlen from their perspective to see how we can improve things. I hope that I will reach with this interview internationals to let them know that they are welcome to think with us, to share their ideas about the changes this city is going through.
To involve internationals to become conscious, fully-fledged and active inhabitant of Heerlen?
Yes, exactly. Get involved, think with us! We want to hear you and see you.
Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, board member and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is now part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen since 2005.
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