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Dr. Benjamin Fadavian: Covid-19 should be taken head-on with great discipline and mutual consideration

Dr. Benjamin Fadavian: Covid-19 should be taken head-on with great discipline and mutual consideration

An interview with the mayor of Herzogenrath, Germany

Dr. Benjamin Fadavian was elected as a Mayor of Herzogenrath in 2020. He holds a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Cologne. He joined the SPD in the spring of 2006. Mayor Fadavian was Member of the Committee for Labour, Economy and Science of the City of Aachen between 2014 and 2019.

Mayor Fadavian, how would you describe the city of Herzogenrath and what would you say is its most well-known landmark?

Herzogenrath is a dynamic and lively city with around 47.000 inhabitants in a prime location in the middle of the border triangle D / B / NL. From a former mining town to a technology-oriented business location, Herzogenrath has made an impressive development in recent years and today offers a high level of quality of life with the urban factors: living - working - relaxing.

Herzogenrath has its origins in the former “Land s´ Hertogenrode” around 1282. The Land Rode or s´Hertogenrode was divided in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna. The state border with the Netherlands/Kerkrade today runs through the middle of Neustraße/Nieuwstraat, which until 1995 was a curiosity in Europe due to a 60 cm high "wall" as the state border. We are practicing successful cross-border cooperation with our Dutch neighbours in Kerkrade through the EURODE association for over 23 years.

The historic Castle of Rode in the center of the city plays an important role in the city's history and is Herzogenrath's most famous landmark. It was first mentioned in 1104 and today, with its romantic ambience, serves as a cross-border cultural meeting place, which is maintained by the Burg Rode e.V. association.

As a newly elected mayor, what is the focus of your administration and what challenges did you face in the beginning?

I was elected mayor to give Herzogenrath a new face. This also includes redefining the subject of “cleanliness and safety” in the urban area.

Together with my employees, I have started to identify neuralgic points and initiate changes. With the creation of additional positions in our public order office and the procurement of modern equipment for the technical operations office, the cleaning phases can be more closely synchronized and the goal of a clean cityscape can be efficiently implemented.

It is particularly important to me to get to know and analyze the structure and responsibilities under my authority. I conduct one-on-one interviews with all of my employees in order to determine the mood down the hierarchical levels. I will incorporate the impressions gained, together with the results of a structural analysis commissioned, into a possible restructuring within the administration.

The initiation of this process naturally encounters many questions and fears in the workforce that have to be addressed. Here, however, I am in a very creative exchange with the responsible staff in my authority. We invite all employees to participate actively in the necessary change process.

What is the most recent project started by the City of Herzogenrath and how has it helped the citizens?

After the expansion of an older stadium into a sports center for football and athletics, the construction of a new central indoor swimming pool has now started. A project that will be of particular importance not only for our citizens but also for people beyond the city limits. The opening is planned for 2023.

A funding application has been submitted for upgrading the neighbouring sports facilities to become a high-performance center. With the implementation we could advance a project in our city with a highly integrative effect. Because here, in addition to artificial turf, tennis, mini-woodland and popular sports, emphasis should also be placed on the inclusion of residents with a migrant background. After all, the possibilities for spending one's free time are a very decisive factor for the quality of life and thus the attractiveness of a city.

Another important topic is climate protection. With the energy park in Merkstein there are plans to make Herzogenrath energy self-sufficient. If we manage to make Herzogenrath climate-neutral in the long term, we can sustainably promote the careful use of energy resources.

How is the Municipality of Herzogenrath facing the challenges of the Covid pandemic?

Our top priority: We deal with the situation offensively!

The city administration is the first point of contact for questions from citizens. At this point I would like to explicitly thank my employees and all citizens. Without great discipline and mutual consideration, coping with this particular crisis situation would not have been possible with so little friction.

A pressing issue is the vacancy of many business premises. We are trying to counteract this with a concept for the development of the inner city. The city of Herzogenrath will stand by all those affected who have to fight hard and will not leave them alone.

Special difficulties arise during this time due to our border location and the different legal conditions on both sides of the border. But - as the recent differences in the handling of rapid tests for cross-border commuters have shown - we also stand in solidarity for our border neighbors in these times.

The public attention that the mayor of Kerkrade and I received through a joint declaration of solidarity at the state border ultimately contributed to the success for our citizens - namely to a practicable regulation of the test procedure for cross-border commuters.

I have high hopes for the vaccinations that are going on and I am sure that there will soon be a light at the end of the corona tunnel.

Herzogenrath is a city rich in history. How do you manage to preserve your legacy while looking to the future?

Herzogenrath has an impressive history. For me, however, there is one point, especially in recent history, that has not come out enough so far: On 1 January 2022, our city will celebrate its 50th birthday, after the municipal reorganization of 1 January 1972. I think this is a very important date to redefine the cohesion of the city.

The tripartite division of our city in Kohlscheid - Herzogenrath - Merkstein, which is still retained due to geographic conditions alone, should, in my opinion, be broken with the aim of strengthening our creative power and enabling connection to higher structures.

I am convinced we can also bind more young people to our strong community and create a better identification with their home and place of residence. I would like to draw attention to our growing process and thus drive urban development forward dynamically.

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

In my opinion, it is very important for every mayor to capture and analyze the mood of the employees of his administration as well as the citizens and to gradually incorporate the knowledge gained into daily administrative work. Only if the work of the authorities is placed on a broad basis can a high level of understanding and satisfaction be achieved for all those involved. Transparent communication across all usable media of our time plays a central role.

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