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I want to give our children skills to navigate as citizens in a globalized world

Interview with Henrik Rasmussen, Mayor of Vallensbæk in Denmark
  • listopad 12, 2019 09:30
  • Author Monika Dimitrova
Medium henrik rasmussen
Źródło: Kim Matthäi Leland

Henrik Rasmussen has been the mayor of Vallensbk Municipality in Denmark since 2010. He is a Bachelor of Architectural Technology and Construction Management, and a M aster of Project Management and Organizational Change . Mr. Rasmussen represented the Conservative Peoples Party in the Danish parliament before he became mayor of Vallensbk.

Great view from the marina of Vallensbk

Mayor Rasmussen, please describe the town of Vallensbk in a few sentences. Which is your favorite place?

Vallensbk is a gem of a town situated only 20 km from the center of Denmarks capital Copenhagen. This short distance means that our citizens can easily enjoy both the pleasures of the big city and the quiet beauty of their own hometown. Vallensbk covers a somewhat limited but richly diversified area: marsh, forest, the old village, the new city area and the beach area. This brings me back to the subject of my favourite place, the beach, which serves two purposes: its one of Northern Europes largest climate protection zones, and is at the same time an immensely popular recreational facility for our citizens.

What are the main achievements and initiatives completed since you assumed the post of mayor, almost ten years ago?

What I am most proud of is actually not the large building projects that we have completed during the last decade, but the change that has come about in peoples perception of being a fellow citizen. In Danish, we use the word ildsjl literally meaning fire soul about someone who is devoted and enthusiastic about contributing to their local community. And we like to say that Vallensbk has become the paradise of the fire souls. We give our local fire souls room and opportunity to unfold their ideas, and this has a huge impact on our citizens quality of life.

Vallensbk offers a variety of social initiatives. Please tell us more about the most important ones.

In my opinion, everyone has resources that can be applied one way or another. The general trend in Denmark during the last decades has been that everything has been institutionalized. In Vallensbk, we are trying to reintroduce some of the old values, for example letting young people learn from the older ones and vice versa. We have projects where school kids teach elderly citizens how to use computers, and where retired citizens read aloud to children in schools or teach them traditional crafts of sewing or knitting. This is all done on a voluntary basis, which to a great degree negates the need for financing. We also have volunteers who take demented fellow citizens out for bicycle rides in rickshaws riding through their old neighborhood helps them reminisce the good times from their life. I am very proud of all these fire souls and the great things they do for their fellow citizens.

Please, share other good practices from your municipality. How do you finance them?

Being not one of the largest municipalities in the country, we have early on realized the importance of cooperating with other municipalities. We have cross-municipality operations running both the water supply, sewer system, waste collection and sorting, climate protection measures and a lot of other things. Together with our neighboring towns, we can create more value for our citizens than we would be able to alone. So, its more efficient, and at the same time, we maintain the local presence that is so important.

What are the main goals you have set for the near future to make Vallensbk a better place to live?

My greatest objective is making sure that our children obtain the skills needed to navigate as citizens in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized this is by far my most important mission. We invest a great deal in our schools. For example, we are establishing maker space facilities at all our schools that are equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other tech tools. In these collaborative workspaces, the students can be creative, learn, explore and share knowledge and be better prepared for their future life. It is our focus that the children become balanced human beings, and we must strengthen, challenge and develop their talent and possibilities so they will obtain a great quality of life.

How would you evaluate the necessity of a portal that brings together the best practices of European municipalities and aims to keep the citizens informed about the latest developments in local policies, such as TheMayor.eu? How can our platform be useful to your administration?

Its always useful to exchange ideas with others, so I welcome any initiative that can inform about best practices across the European municipalities.

Find out more aboutVallensbk here