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  Nr. 67 - February 2004
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Our Mayor - One Year On

by Vicki Preston, February 2004
A year has passed already since Yiannis Rangoussis took office. I met with him at the end of 2003 to talk about his experience so far and to learn more about the years leading up to his appointment as Mayor of Paros as well as his plans for the future.

Yiannis Rangoussis was born on 11th December 1965 in Athens. Though raised in the capital, he was a frequent visitor to Paros in his childhood, as his father, Nikolas, then a captain in the Merchant Navy, comes from the village of Kostos.

Yiannis' wife, Katerina Roussou, is also from Kostos and they have two young children - Nikolas (6) and Vassiliki Irini (4).

Yiannis graduated in economics from the University of Thessaloniki and completed his Masters degree in England at the University of Sussex, He subsequently returned to further studies at Thessaloniki University Law School.

England was, for him, a natural choice for post graduate studies - he already spoke English and at that time there was no Masters programme in economics available in Greece. He lived in Sussex for one year and enthuses about the time he spent there and the opportunities it afforded him to meet students from all over the world and to have access to new technology not available in Greece.

"There were many new technologies in the UK at that time which only came to Greece about five years later - phone cards, just as one example", he explained.

"I have such good memories of my time there and would like one day to have the chance to live another year in England. I love the English people. They are a very open people, very organized, and good people too - very hospitable and helpful. And I love English humour - they have the best adverts in the world. And Monty Python - could there be a better comedy?!"

After completing his studies, Yiannis worked for almost five years as an advisor in tourism to the Greek Commissioner in Brussels, Mr Papoutsis. He lived part-time in Belgium and Greece, travelling frequently between the two countries.

Returning to Athens, he was appointed General Manager of "KETHI" - a research centre examining issues of employment and equality for women. He was at "KETHI" for three years and credits this time as giving him the opportunity to learn management skills as well as a good understanding of women's needs and rights. He also briefly worked for O.T.E. before resigning to return to Paros and open his own business - the "Goody's" Restaurant in Paroikia - in May 1999.

I asked him how this decision came about - why he would choose to run a small local island business rather than pursue a much more "high-powered" career path in the city or internationally.

"My main reason was because of the quality of life on Paros", he told me. "I had lived here right through the winter in 1992 and had seen that people lived in a way that was, to my mind, much better than urban life."

Katerina and I had married in 1996 and were living in Athens, but by 1998 we knew we wanted to return to the island and so I tried to find some kind of business where I could be independent and not in the service of the state."

"How, then", I asked, "did the transition to Mayor of Paros begin?"

"Well it began because many people who knew something about my knowledge and experience started to ask me to consider running in the elections. I became interested in the idea, not only because I've been involved one way or another in politics since I was just 17 years old (as President of the Students' Union), but also because I love this island like I love my own children. And working for Paros, I know that I am working for my children's future."

I reminded Yiannis of something he had said before the elections - that he firmly believed a Mayor must always be truthful, even at the risk of being temporarily disliked - and asked if he had any examples to illustrate this point after a year in office.

"As I said then, I don't believe that there is any point in lying just to maintain one's popularity. In the end, popularity will depend on concrete results. When people see that something has been done well, they will respond accordingly.

"One small example I could give you is when we closed the square in Paroikia in the summer. People were very critical to begin with, but later we heard a lot of "bravos" as they saw how much cleaner and less crowded it was and how much better for the kids and shops.

"It's not that the job of Mayor is really very difficult, it's just that it needs a lot of hard work. But a good Mayor is not someone who works on his own, he has to work well with his team, and there are many others working very long hours with me from morning to night who also care passionately about their island and its future."

I asked what his greatest achievement and biggest disappointments have been so far.

"The biggest success has to be the work that Egnatia has done - it's a huge project. and very, very important to Paros. The biggest disappointment? I suppose that has to be the attempts from some people from the very beginning to undermine us and to go against every decision of the Council just for the sake of it, rather than working together for the good of Paros. But then I also think these people lose credibility in this way because we are proving through the results of our work that we are moving ahead, whereas they are stuck in the past."

And what of Yiannis' plans after his four year term of office as Mayor finishes? Does he have some idea of his next political or personal ambitions?

"For now, my mind only goes as far as 2006. For the people of Paros to be happy and satisfied with our efforts. We'll see then."
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