Mark Silveira, Source: São Roque do Pico Municipality

São Roque do Pico is a pleasant place for living or spending a fun vacation

São Roque do Pico is a pleasant place for living or spending a fun vacation

Interview with Mark Silveira, the Mayor of São Roque do Pico in Portugal

Mark Silveira was born on 6 December 1976, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA. He graduated with a degree in Biology/Geology from Universidad dos Açores in 2001, and worked as a teacher in several schools in the Azores.

In December 2008 Mr Silveira assumed the functions of Delegate for Pico Island at the Regional Secretariat for Tourism and Transport. Since October 2013, he has been the mayor of São Roque do Pico.

São Roque do Pico is located on the north coast of Pico Island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Photo by São Roque do Pico Municipality

Mayor Silveira, please describe the municipality of São Roque do Pico in a few sentences.

The municipality of São Roque do Pico is a pleasant place for living or spending a fun vacation. With its history going back to 10 November 1542, the municipality of the north coast of Pico Island used to have an economy based on whale hunting, which had been an important economic source for decades and a legacy that can still be seen on the streets today.

Currently, the economy is based on the primary and tertiary sectors. One sector which is beginning to gain importance is tourism. The Azores, the island and the municipality have benefitted from the unprecedented opening to the outside world, which brings tourists from all over looking for natural experiences

What are the main achievements and initiatives completed since you have assumed the position of Mayor?

For almost seven years as Mayor of São Roque do Pico, the work has been intense and stimulating, with daily challenges to help the municipality grow and develop. We are looking towards a sustainable future that contributes to the well-being of our citizens and gives security to more people, especially young couples. From the very first moment of my administration, the stabilisation of the financial situation of the Town Hall was the primary goal.

After that, our focus was the projection of São Roque do Pico as a touristic nature destination of excellence, activating the brand “São Roque do Pico - Capital do Turismo Rural” on the tourism markets. Today, the brand is consolidated and constitutes an an important source of economic wealth for the municipality, working as a catalyst for the economic sector.

At this moment we are developing a set of projects supported by municipal funds that will contribute to the economic dynamics, such as the construction of a Business Incubator and the renovation of the Business Park. In addition, we have built urban residences to settle young couples in our municipality and we will give priority to the restoration of some heritage places like Praceta dos Baleeiros, next to the Museu da Indústria Baleeira (Whaling Industry Museum), and Largo da Igreja de Santo António.

A seafront avenue is under construction in Prainha village in order to rejuvenate an abandoned area in one of the villages of the municipality with the largest number of rural tourism entrepreneurs. At the same time, we have given priority to improving the life quality of our citizens with the reinforcement of the water supply and with an important commitment to social policies that help young parents, university students and the senior population with financial support and assistance that have been unprecedented in the municipality.

Please tell us more about the most important among these socially oriented initiatives.

With the “Cartão 60+” card the senior population can benefit from discounts on the water tariffs and on the urban waste collection fees, as well as on the purchase of medications. In addition, the Municipality offers a free service to take citizens over the age of 60 who lack support, for routine medical checks or treatments.

There is more. We have created childbearing incentives with monthly financial aid for 12 months and support in the acquisition of goods and services indispensable for the healthy and harmonious development of children, such as nursery, medical checks, medication, hygiene products, food and clothing. Young university students from disadvantaged families are likewise supported by a monthly scholarship.

What about the cultural and sports programming this year? How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the annual calendar of events?

For the current year, we had planned a set of cultural and sports initiatives, with a special emphasis on Cais Agosto Festival, which was supposed to take place between 29 July and 2 August. The pandemic situation caused by Covid-19 changed this schedule and we were forced to cancel the festival. At this moment, unfortunately, we don’t have any cultural and sports initiatives planned.

What was summer 2020 in São Roque do Pico like? How did the local tourism industry restart its work?

The Covid-19 pandemic drastically changed the plans of the tourism entrepreneurs who were initially expecting the summer of 2020 to be the best season yet. However, the pandemic muddled up those expectations and, naturally, this summer was considered a quiet season.

We hope that we will be able to gradually recover the tourism dynamic that the municipality has previously experienced. Our expectation is that in 2021 we will have already achieved some part of that recovery, although we are aware that it will be difficult to recover 100% of the touristic activity that we have seen in the last years.

What are your thoughts on TheMayor.EU portal as a unifying platform for Europe’s municipalities, and how can it be useful to you and your citizens?

A united Europe is one of the goals that we all must defend and value. In order to foster good relations between the institutions and the citizens of Europe, we must have an accurate understanding of the importance and contribution that the European Union has in each person’s life. TheMayor.EU platform has a key role in transmitting this kind of information to all European citizens.

That work must continue to be promoted so the dissemination of what is happening in Europe is always present in European people’s lives. If possible, we should get closer to the citizens, no matter how small the municipality is or how far it is located from the decision making centres. In addition, this work must be complemented with raising awareness and clarifying initiatives for all Europeans.

What are the main goals that you are planning to work on in the near future to make São Roque do Pico a better place to live in? Will environmental quality and energy savings continue to be priorities for the municipality?

In a municipality with a brand like  “Capital do Turismo Rural”, the environmental issue is paramount. It is not by chance that the Parish Council of the municipality has been distinguished over the last few years with the “Eco Freguesia - Freguesia Limpa” (Eco Village - Clean Village) award and the beach areas have been awarded the European “Bandeira Azul” (Blue Flag) that attests to the cleanliness of the water in these areas.

In addition, the City Council of São Roque do Pico recently replaced the flow regulators of every tap in the beaches and public places, in order to ensure a reduction in water consumption. We are also in the process of implementing a new network of containers to collect bio-waste. This is an innovative action on the island which comes in addition to the collections that we already do for paper, glass and plastic.

In terms of energy resources, we have given the first steps towards the reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions. The process of acquiring two electric vehicles to reinforce the municipal fleet is underway, and, earlier this year, following the ARAAL contract that we signed with the Regional Energy Department, we installed the first electric charging station on Pico island.

With this commitment to electric mobility, the City Council of São Roque do Pico took another step into the implementation of more responsible and environmentally-minded options that will counteract the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels, provide economic benefits for families and companies, and contribute to enjoying safe, comfortable and low-cost transport.

Looking to the future, our focus is materialising the projects in progress with the support of EU funding which will provide comfortable conditions in terms of water supply and selective waste collection.

To find out more about São Roque do Pico, visit the profile of the municipality.



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