“We want our citizens to feel at home here”
Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive
“It is up to us to make sure that the locals will not leave the centre of the city, and that it does not become just an empty ‘museum’”, says Terezie Radoměřská, Mayor of Prague 1. The former Český Šternberk castle manager, member of the Šternberk family, and TOP09 political party explains what brought her to local politics, and what vision she has carried out.
You worked as a castellan at Český Šternberk, the castle that was restored by your uncle, Zdeněk Sternberg. Can you look back and tell us a bit about the castle?
It is obvious that Český Šternberk is the most beautiful castle in the world! No, seriously – it is one of the oldest castles in our country, founded by Zdeslav in 1241. This Zdeslav, originally Zdeslav from Divišov, began calling himself Zdeslav from Šternberk, and this is where the family name originates. What is interesting is that the castle is still owned by the family, precisely by my cousin Filip. The castle is originally early gothic, but was partially rebuilt in almost all architectonic styles of our history. And finally, the feature appreciated by many visitors – it is built high above the Sázava river, and as such it dominates very nicely to the river valley. Of course, my answer might be slightly biased, but the truth is that I am very fond of the castle and the region. It was a big adventure working there.
Back to the present time now. You are a member of the TOP09 party. What brought you here?I was politically active in the past as part of the liberal- conservative Unie Svobody party. So, when Karel Schwarzenberg, my distant relative and close friend, founded TOP09 I did not hesitate to join. When I got the offer to work for TOP09 in the education field I was very glad that I could help. Later, I felt the same as a general secretary of the party, and as an advisor in the senate. So, yes, it was Karel Schwarzenberg who brought me to TOP09.
How did you become the Mayor of Prague 1?
When you work in the back office of a political party for some time, meet the politicians daily, and know the legislation processes, it is only logical that one day you think it is time to take some of the political responsibility into your own hands. And that makes you think about where you can be useful.
I have lived in Prague 1 all my life, so it was a natural decision to work in this area. I was very lucky to find support, and meet many dedicated people in the regional TOP09 branch here. From this point, it was just one step to run for office. And becoming mayor? For this, I am grateful to the people who voted for me.
What is the mayor responsible for? Are the eight working hours enough for that?
I can see four basic roles for a mayor to fulfil. Firstly, the mayor is a statutory representative by law. This means he or she represents the municipality in formal acts such as signing contracts, official meetings, and negotiations. This relates to the second role, which is the social one – representing the municipality at various cultural, social, and diplomatic events and meetings, maintaining existing contacts, and establishing new ones that can contribute to the development of the district. The third role takes place on a management level.
The mayor is the head of the council, manages its meetings, and together with the councillors establishes a development strategy for the city. He or she must also work with the opposition to prevent conflicts which can divide the citizens. And the fourth role is being a person responsible to the citizens. The mayor must keep their doors open for the citizens at all times, always being prepared to meet, hear out, and, whenever possible, help the citizens. Personally, I find this role the most important, as it establishes a mutual trust between the citizens and the municipality administration.
And how many hours do I work?
I usually start at 8 a.m., because I still have to make sure my children are at school in the morning. Sometimes, I finish by 6 p.m., and then there are either some social events in the evening, or I study various materials at home. So, I estimate this to be about 12 hours per day on average.
You were elected as the Mayor of Prague 1 several months ago. Can you share some of your impressions so far?
First of all, it has been a big joy because it is a clear result of the long-time efforts by our TOP09 team. But it has also been a feeling of responsibility, not only to the people who voted for me but to the whole district. Originally, I was a history student. Maybe that is why I feel a deep responsibility to both the generations of the past and of the future. We are just temporarily managing the area for the future, but we will always be compared with our best predecessors, and will always be a good or bad inspiration for those who will come after us.
Where in Prague 1 do you see the most issues to be worked on?
The city of Prague – and especially our district – faces a big challenge with over-tourism and all of its related negative aspects. It is up to us to make sure that the locals will not leave the centre of the city, and that it does not become just an empty ‘museum’. Another problem is the traffic, which is a heavy burden for the central district, including the related problems with parking. We also need to pay enough attention to challenges connected with climate change, especially (by committing) to plant more trees.
I hope we can implement our program, and find solutions to the most significant challenges. We want to create a place where tourists are the welcome guests, who also act like guests. Where the locals can park, the centre does not look like a supermarket parking lot, and the summer temperatures do not climb so high that you cannot breathe. We would like – and this is very important for me – for our citizens to feel at home here.
What is your working strategy for Prague 1 for the next four years?
We would like to reduce alcotourism, not only by getting effectively in touch with local businesses but also by municipal police enforcing. We would like residential parking zones to be truly available for the residents. We would like to make the city greener, and to have local citizens be involved participants in the development of the district. We have so many topics that we cannot be sure if four years will be enough!
A mayor’s job tends to come with a lot of criticism. How will you handle that?
I think it is alright to criticize someone, as long as the criticism makes a point and is done in a decent manner. It makes me sad when someone, not knowing the true background of things, automatically accuses others of failing. On the other hand, I am learning not to pay attention to vulgarisms and dirty manners – though thankfully they are not too common – as they say more about their author than about me.
Four years from now, will people say that you were effective?
I hope so! We have a good team and good ideas, and we know how to implement them. But please, ask me this question again in four years.