Mayor of Regensburg, Germany (August 2015)
After six years of dedicated work as Deputy Mayor of Regensburg (responsible for social aspects, youth and family, senior citizens aspects and city cleaning department), Joachim Wolbergs was elected Lord Mayor in March 2014. He is a proud “first citizen” of the historical and at the same time very modern city Regensburg and fully supports the idea of the World Heritage title.
Ever since his teenage days at the Gymnasium, Mr. Wolbergs has been committed to social activity and used to work as head boy and representative of pupils for the school district. He became active member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany (SPD) in 1988, based on his early conviction and dedicated work in the student council, and was elected member of the city council in Regensburg already as early as 1996. Leading the parliamentary group of the Social Party in the city council from 2002 to 2008, his focus was on financial and cultural aspects.
Next to his political dedication for the city, he successfully initiated the “Kultur- und Begegnungszentrum Alte Mälzerei”, which is a cultural hot spot for a wide variety of music, theatre and cultural events, located in a historical old malthouse. He worked as managing director for the “Alte Mälzerei” as well as the Cultural Centre “KulturSpeicher” and established a prominent institution for artists, musicians, students and citizens as a meeting point.
Joachim Wolbergs is married to his wife Anja and father of two children. Whenever the obligations as a Mayor allow, he tries to grant time to family and sport (running).
1. The Old town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof was registered on the World Heritage List in 2006. What has been the impact of this nomination for your city?
Regensburg gained many benefits from the inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage list. There is of course the first thing that comes to your mind instantly: an increase in tourism numbers; especially guests from foreign countries are mainly attracted by the World Heritage status. But it is also quite clear that the local citizens of Regensburg found a new pride in their hometown. A new awareness for the special treasures of our historically unique city arose and makes me very proud of my hometown.
2. In your opinion, what is the vital role of a mayor when a site has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List?
A convinced leadership role in raising awareness for the necessity of protection and enhancement of our World Heritage, that is what I see as main task of a mayor of a World Heritage city. Administrative structures have to be strengthened and even newly founded to install a communication across all branches of local authorities. Local stakeholders have to be given a platform under the integrative aspect of developing a Management Plan for the World Heritage site that works for everybody and can be installed permanently.
3. Concretely, what have been your actions toward the protection and enhancement of your heritage?
I was elected member of the City Council in Regensburg already in 1996 and can confirm that the protection of the heritage of our city has been a common objective even before the UNESCO title was announced in 2006. An active politician for almost 20 years now and leader of a municipality and Mayor since 2014, I am convinced that our heritage is not only our past, but also our future. Many successful steps have been undertaken in Regensburg, first of all there was very early the awareness and understanding of local people for the wealth that lies in old buildings and their preservation. Only due to a lot of private engagement, our city is what it is today. So I would say it is not mainly only the action of a city administration, but first of all due to the advocacy of convinced locals that Regensburg nowadays holds the World Heritage title. But of course it is my persuasion and my task to foster the initial idea by granting all necessary support through active promotion. That is why I also took over the chair in the working group of the German Cities Association for Unesco World Heritage Cities – where exchange of expertise and experience is a most wanted benefit of our cooperation.
4. Do you hold special events to enhance your city?
Annual World Heritage days are held in Germany – Regensburg joins the idea and celebrates every first Sunday in June. Synergy effects are used in many aspects of our civil society in town: the yearly focus topic of the Heritage Day is chosen according to topical issues. For example in 2015, we focused on integration and immigration with a lively and multi-lingual event, inviting different cultural groups in Regensburg to participate and present their Heritage.
Every year in September, we are holding the “Day of the Open Monuments”, which is an extremely successful and well-visited event for locals as visitors alike.
We also invite young people to share their opinion by offering different competitions, e.g. a photo competition for the OWHC regional secretariat, or we participate in the OWHC video competition “My city, our World Heritage”.
5. Your active presence within a World Organization gives an international dimension to the local heritage of Regensburg. As a mayor, what importance do you give to this dimension?
International networking is what I deem very important when it comes to World Heritage. We can share knowledge and experience, identify common challenges and encourage direct contact with other World Heritage cities. I fully support the OWHC and that Regensburg took over responsibility by holding the seat of the Regional Office for North-West Europe since 2011. It is my task as Mayor to support my administration in bringing forward the World Heritage idea on many local levels, but also represent the city with pride of what we have achieved since the nomination in 2006.
6. In your opinion, what makes Regensburg such a special place?
Undoubtedly, Regensburg is a most attractive tourist spot and famous for its history and the wonderfully preserved Medieval Old Town. But the special atmosphere is created by its people: an open-minded, welcoming, sympathetic attitude makes Regensburg a lively and young city in a very old dress.
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