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Juan Pérez Guerrero: As an administration, we have to be close to everyone and avoid the impoverishment of the most vulnerable sectors

Juan Pérez Guerrero: As an administration, we have to be close to everyone and avoid the impoverishment of the most vulnerable sectors

An interview with the mayor of Lucena in Spain

Juan Pérez Guerrero was born in 1962. He holds a degree in Mathematics from the University of Granada, and since 1987 has worked as a teacher of Secondary Education.

His political journey began in 2007. He has held the Delegations of Finance, Internal Affairs, Education and the Presidency. Since June 2011, he has the honour of being the mayor of Lucena.

He considers himself a family person, lover of customs and traditions, hard-working, responsible, open-minded, sensitive to the problems of citizenship and respectful of the opinions of others. He tries to avoid improvisation; he likes teamwork and defends the Welfare State at all costs. He understands politics as a citizen service from the point of view of municipalism.

Mr Mayor, how would you describe the city of Lucena in your own words?

Lucena, in the geographical heart of Andalusia, is the gateway to the Subbética Cordobesa, an exciting region that treasures the charm of the nature of inland Spain with the convenience of being connected in just over 60 minutes with large tourist centres such as Malaga, Seville, Córdoba and Granada. Lucena, the medieval Pearl of Sepharad, keeps alive the heritage and historical legacy of Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures.

In what sectors is the economy of your municipality based?

Lucena is known for its industrial strength. With a long tradition, the furniture and wood sector was the protagonist, in the second half of the 20th century, for the economic takeoff of our city; Today, although it continues to play a very important role, the cooling and refrigerating industry takes the lead, making Lucena the Andalusian benchmark in the sector and one of the most powerful in the Spanish field.

As a percentage, agriculture also accounts for a significant part of the local economy, especially olive production based around extra virgin olive oil protected, for its quality, in the Protected Designation of Origin ‘Aceites de Lucena’. Under the protection of our tourist brand ‘Lucena, with its own light’, versatile and dynamic crafts and commerce constitute another economic prop for the city.

How is Lucena facing the challenges of the Covid pandemic?

With similar difficulties to those of any other municipality. From the human point of view, we are concerned about the losses and pain caused by the disease. Many families are damaged by a very severe pandemic.

In the economic sphere, we are facing a crisis, which as such, puts us once again before the mirror of social inequalities. Workers separated from their jobs or businessmen, entrepreneurs and freelancers who have been left without any economic activity, have all put a face to this crisis.

As an administration, we have to be close to all of them and avoid the impoverishment of the most vulnerable sectors. In Lucena, at the end of March 2020, two weeks after the declaration of the state of emergency, we were already able to articulate from the Plenary a social and economic emergency plan that during these eleven months has granted more than 1,600 benefits and has invested 1.5 million euros to articulate citizen support and care mechanisms.

In 2021 you will celebrate 10 years as mayor of Lucena. How has the city changed during this decade?

The assessment that I can make of this decade as mayor of Lucena is inevitably marked by this last year of a health crisis. However, it has not been an easy decade for public management. In 2011, I acceded to the Mayor's Office amidst economic stagnation and recession due to the financial crisis which, when it went from macro to microeconomics, hit the municipalities hard.

The budgets of the city councils declined and at a general level, both in Europe and in Spain, public policies of cuts were imposed that doubly condemned local administrations, which are the first ones that citizens usually turn to because of their proximity. There, the response capacity of local politics deteriorated with difficulties, in some cases, for the maintenance of public services. And just now that we were beginning to leave behind us that excessive austerity, the consequences of covid-19 are upon us.

In Lucena, it has taken years to complete the urban transformation of the historic centre of the city, in part thanks to community funds from the ERDF, to whose execution we granted special care because we knew that we were risking being placed in the next calls. This has been the case, and for 2 years we have channelled the new funds linked to the integral urban development strategy (EDUSI), which we dedicate to the neighbourhoods that surround this historic centre.

What projects or initiatives remain to be completed?

A city with the size of Lucena always has pending projects. At the municipal level, we must promote some of them, despite their high budgetary cost. Regarding the supply of drinking water, we are working on the development of a project to improve our supply network, which is half a century old. This will allow us to use what is a rather scarce resource in this area more efficiently.

We have also proposed to make Lucena a 100% accessible city, with public and private spaces and areas open to all. The execution of these projects is progressing at a good pace, but it would not be a bad thing to do it more quickly.

Mobility within the municipality, which must turn towards more sustainable approaches, and tourist heritage resources are preferred areas in our management, without neglecting, as I have already indicated, all the approaches and expressions of interest inherent to the EDUSI strategy that we have been executing for a couple of years and which will conclude in 2023 to finally present a city that is more accessible, more sustainable, participatory and open to the world.

Do you have any advice or recommendations to share with other mayors of small towns in Europe?

For our cities, the possibilities of moving forward and generating new growth expectations are, to a high degree, linked to their ability and capacity to network. Our experience in this regard is positive. Knowing how to weave a network of shared aspirations is essential to face projects that, by themselves, would be unattainable. On a daily basis, I encourage my teams to work in this direction and I also invite colleagues from Mayoral Offices from other municipalities to do so, since the future is written in terms of territories and also regions.

Another recommendation I would make is, without a doubt, to use and manage every euro that reaches the city from the European funds, in the certainty that it will contribute to territorial development and achieve friendly cities where citizens play a primary role. We are a territory with limited quotas of industrialization and economic development, every bit of help we receive is like a breath of oxygen, an opportunity that we must hold on to.

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