World Mayor essays

In a series of personal essays, the finalists for the 2023 World Mayor Prize describe the reasons that motivated them to enter politics, the challenges they face as mayors and how they envisage their towns and cities to develop and prosper in the future. They stress the importance of connecting with people and building partnerships
Essays by: Mayor of Dover | Mayor of Graz | Bürgermeisterin von Graz | Mayor of Greifswald |Oberbürgermeister von Greifswald | Mayor of Oliveri | Sindaco di Oliveri | Mayor of Quelimane | Mayor of Utrecht | Burgemeester van Utrecht |

Essay by
Francesco Iarrera
Mayor of Oliveri, Sicily, Italy
Francesco Iarrera, Mayor of Oliveri Oliveri, Sicily, Italy

December 2023: It is incredible that a Mayor of such a small town has been selected as a finalist for such a prestigious prize as the World Mayor prize.

I was elected in 2019 and immediately realised one thing: without the help of the people, no Mayor can succeed.

That is why I staked all my cards on sharing and collaborating directly with my citizens: only by doing this allowed us to make Oliveri a better place.

On the wave of the synergy between citizens, administration and local businesses, we created the first solidarity day. Social volunteering with which we restored stretches of pavement and roads, regenerated public works and looked after large green areas in Oliveri.

Today, we have reached the fourth solidarity day and are preparing for a fifth edition.

An extraordinary event that I myself am amazed by and that should be studied to understand its dynamics and attempt to replicate them.

At the same time, we have involved local artists and artists from other territories, giving them the opportunity to express their talent, using our streets and squares as showcases. In just a few years, we have created 43 art installations, in iron, ceramics, and painting, and we have set ourselves the ambitious goal of making Oliveri an open-air modern art gallery, enhancing the traditions and history of Sicily.

We have encouraged our fellow citizens to adopt the local flowerbeds. Today almost all of them are taken care of by individuals or private companies.

In 2021, unexpectedly, I was awarded the Comuni Virtuosi prize, an award for good practices in my community.

An award presented to me, but which belongs to my entire community.

The pandemic has allowed me to get even closer to my fellow citizens. Every night, through Facebook, I wrote stories, taken from anecdotes and everyday, real events, which I concluded with a slogan informing them of the number of covid cases in Oliveri. These stories were much appreciated and collected in a book, the proceeds of which are used entirely for youth initiatives.

We created Italy's first amphibious museum: one part of the museum is terrestrial, in an open and public space, the other part is submerged, and can only be visited with mask and tube. The works in this museum were created by one of our fellow citizens.

Today I find myself amongst in finalists of the “World Mayor prize 2023”. I’m next to mayors of big cities and I think that I don’t deserve this honour. But I want to take advantage of this opportunity to make Oliveri and his extraordinary nature known.

I am competing for the prize thanks to the peace and friendship initiatives undertaken.

• We have strengthened a twinning with Breitnau, a German communityin the Black Forest, so much so that we have obtained a national grant, issued directly by the Presidents of the Italian and German Republics. The funds awarded to us will be used to strengthen the friendship between the two communities through art exchanges. The award was presented to us directly by Presidents Mattarella and Steinmeier.

• We have built a reception centre for unaccompanied minors. Children from various parts of the world were welcomed into a new home and family of 2143 people. In a few weeks, each of them was not a guest, but one of us. Through sport, art and the generosity typical of Sicilians, these young people were able to look at life with new hopes and trust.

• We have activated Erasmus projects through which we welcome young people from all over Europe and our young people often go on free trips throughout Europe. This reinforces the sense of Europeanism, a necessity no one can do without.

• We have established relations with a Swiss multinational company, with whom we participated in and won an international grant to create artistic photovoltaic panels.

I conclude this essay by expressing how satisfy I feel about my own experience as a mayor, during which I learned that civic well-being improves when people feel empowered and that it’s only by staying united that we can make progress.

Of course, this is not enough. There are still many challenges to face and core problems to resolve, but I am certain that the journey we have done and the path we have marked so far can indicate a process of growth capable of improving our town and increasing the well-being of the people who live here.

I am aware that the journey of politics can never be considered concluded. It's like a relay race in which everyone will have to run a stretch and leave the baton to those who follow. An endless race, in which the only challenge is with oneself and one's limits.

Essays by: Mayor of Dover | Mayor of Graz | Bürgermeisterin von Graz | Mayor of Greifswald |Oberbürgermeister von Greifswald | Mayor of Oliveri | Sindaco di Oliveri | Mayor of Quelimane | Mayor of Utrecht | Burgemeester van Utrecht |

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The World Mayor Project was conceived in 2004 by the City Mayors Foundation to raise the profile of mayors worldwide and honour those who have contributed exceptionally to local and urban affairs. Mayors must carry out their duties selflessly and beyond reproach. The Project has no association with any city or organisation and is run on philanthropic lines. Any kind of revenue is NOT sought and will be rejected if offered. DETAILS

Winners of the World Mayor Prize since 2004: Edi Rama, Tirana (2004); Dora Bakoyannis, Athens (2005); John So, Melbourne (2006); Helen Zille, Cape Town (2008); Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City (2010); Iñaki Azkuna, Bilbao (2012); Naheed Nenshi, Calgary (2014); Bart Somers, Mechelen (2016); Valeria Mancinelli, Ancona (2018); Ahmed Aboutaleb, Rotterdam (2021); Philippe Rio, Grigny (2021); Elke Kahr, Graz (2023) DETAILS