Mayor Materek: a record budget for investments throughout Starachowice
Poland’s youngest mayor, Marek Materek, was only 25 when he got elected as mayor of Starachowice, a town of 50,000 people in southern Poland. Mayor Materek is currently serving his second term and Mayors of Europe asked additional details regarding his past, current and future plans for Starachowice.
[Mayors of Europe]: Mayor Materek, you first became mayor in 2014 when you were only 25 years old and that made you the youngest mayor of Poland. When did you first start thinking about pursuing your career in politics?
[Mayor Materek]:– Apparently, at the age of 3. Sitting in my chair, I said that I would become mayor (“president”) – so say the witnesses who were present at that moment. After 22 years, my words came true and I became the president of Starachowice.
[Mayors of Europe]: You are also the co-founder of Youth City Council in Starachowice which has been operating since 2007. Can you tell us something more about this association and its goals?
[Mayor Materek]: It started with meetings at the language school of Mrs. Jolanta Nowak, who implemented the project that initiated the Youth City Council. First, an initiative group was created, and after a year or two, the Youth City Council was established, which is still active today. The Youth Council is an advisory body operating at the Mayor of the City. Our council in Starachowice has its own budget and councilors who come from schools in the city. Councilors can undertake various activities for their colleagues, including sports, cultural and charity. Members of our Youth City Council participate, among others, in the “Cities for Youth” project financed by the Erasmus + program. Thanks to this, our young people can travel to other countries and develop their competences.
[Mayors of Europe]: You got elected for the second office term in 2018 with the support of over 84,4% votes, which was the second best result in Poland. How do you explain this extraordinary accomplishment? What is the main reason that your fellow citizens of Starachowice elected you and what differentiates your approach from your opponents?
[Mayor Materek]: You should ask the inhabitants of Starachowice about this. Probably each of the 17 777 people who voted for me had their own motivation. It was the second best result in Poland among city mayors. It is possible that it was an effect of the fact that Starachowice started to change and the inhabitants actually saw these changes and still see them. From the moment I started working for the city, investments have reached every district. From small investments, such as the construction of a pavement, construction of a road, rainwater drainage system, to the huge ones, such as thermal modernization of all buildings of schools and kindergartens subordinate to the city, reconstruction of the main communication axes of the city, revitalization of the City Park, Pasternik Lagoon, Lubianka Lagoon, Workers’ Colony with historic multi-family houses, construction of transfer junctions, among others in Starachowice East and West. We strive to increase the number of investments every year. We use subsidies from the European Union and government funds.
[Mayors of Europe]: Could you please tell us about your 2022 plans for Starachowice with regards to infrastructure, investments and climate change?
[Mayor Materek]: In the budget for 2022, on the expenditure side, we have planned a record amount of over PLN 400 million, half of which are expenditure on investments, of which there will be over 100.
The residents of Starachowice have been waiting for these investments for several dozen years. What is important, thanks to the cooperation between the president and councilors of the City Council, for the last 7 years we have led to such a situation that Starachowice is able to generate an appropriate amount of funds for own contributions to the acquired external funds. Over PLN 80 million are funds obtained from the European Union, and the budget also includes large funds from Norwegian funds as well as from the state budget, i.e. national funds.
These subsidies really influenced the fact that we have so much funds for investments in 2022 and when we compare ourselves to other cities in Poland or in the region, we are sensational against them. And this is a reason to be proud of all councilors, office workers and residents of Starachowice, because the investments that we will be implementing will be used by the next generations.
The most important undertakings planned for implementation in the new year include: construction of the viaduct in Starachowice Dolne, the investment is being carried out by the poviat with the participation of the commune.
Another large undertaking is the purchase of ecological buses that were produced in our MAN plant in Starachowice. The next ones are the modernization of the Culture Park building, cleaning and development of the surroundings of the Pasternik and Lubianka water reservoirs. Construction of a sports hall at the Primary School No. 6. Also, construction of a back-up facility, workshop, car wash, dispatch center and CNG refueling station for buses at the base of the Communication Plant, construction of a building for 100 families at Kościelna Street, reconstruction of multi-family buildings in the area of the former Robotnicza Kolonia, multi-family building at Ostrowiecka Street and construction of new social flats.
The budget also included: modernization of the city marketplace, increasing the availability of e-services, reconstruction and expansion of the Palace building, construction of the Care and Housing Center, thermal modernization of the building of the Municipal Office, creation of a modern waste management system and construction of sports facilities at the city stadium.
[Mayors of Europe]: Having in mind that now more than 55% of human population lives in cities, the importance of mayors’ roles in bigger than ever. In your opinion, how can more young generation leaders be attracted to engage more in local politics?
[Mayor Materek]: Through participation, cultural and sports projects. There will always be a leader who will lead the work and whose opinion is taken by the group that works with him. The aforementioned Youth Council operates in our city, but there are also non-governmental organizations, associations and foundations that have their leaders and create various activities for the inhabitants of Starachowice. During meetings with young citizens of our city, I always repeat that it is profitable to act socially and that our city tries to listen to the needs of young people. Why? Because they will create this city in the future. We reach out to such leaders or entities and often offer them help in organizing events, but we also ask them for their opinions on various topics.
Giving young people influence on the decisions made by adults makes young leaders want to act. It also happens that when the time comes for elections, these young leaders take part in them and the residents decide whether a given leader will gain their trust mandate to exercise power in the city, for example in the City Council.