Sharon Dijksma sworn in as 332nd Mayor of Utrecht

Sharon Dijksma was sworn in on Wednesday as the 332nd person to serve as Utrecht’s mayor. She took the helm of the country’s fourth largest city not in front of a huge audience at the Tivoli Vredenburg music center as would be the case under normal circumstances, but rather in a small ceremony at City Hall.

Dijksma has no easy task ahead of her with the coronavirus pandemic continuing. In addition to the pandemic, she said one of her main focuses would be the city’s growth. She asked the city’s 400 thousand inhabitants not to be afraid of change, but to develop in a way which is to Utrecht’s liking.

“I know that growth comes with growing pains and that there are legitimate concerns about how to keep the good while the city continues to change,” she said. “Let us show that we have the guts to be the first to jump in the pool.”

She also pledged to continue what the acting mayor, Peter den Oudsten, started, and pledged to tackle organized crime. “We must end organized crime because these activities are extremely disruptive to our city and society as a whole,” she said during her inaugural address.

Den Oudsten took over after Jan van Zanen left to become mayor of The Hague. Dijksma beat out 27 other candidates for the Utrecht job, and exchanged her position as an alderman in Amsterdam to become the city’s third female mayor.

The 49-year-old began her political career as a member of the youth branch of the Socialist Party in 1991, before becoming the youngest-ever member of the Tweede Kamer in 1994 at the age of 23. She remained in the lower house of Parliament for 13 years.

Dijksma then served as a State Secretary in the Cabinet three times, first at the Education, Culture and Sciences Ministry through 2010 under Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, then at the Ministry of Economic Affairs from 2012-2015, followed by the Infrastructure and Environment Ministry from 2015-2017. Both of those positions were in Cabinet’s led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.