Aldo D’Achille, the mayor of San Bellino on the roof of the world

“Every citizen who is committed to the community is a first citizen,” says convinced Aldo D’Achille, mayor of San Bellino (Rovigo). Today, September 14, he was nominated among the winners of the “World Mayor project”, Launched at the beginning of the pandemic crisis, alongside the likes of Mansur Yavas, mayor of Ankara, or Ahmed Aboutaleb (Rotterdam). «I am convinced that passion and involvement make the difference in building the community», affirms D’Achille, who, according to the award ceremony, «is not just a cutting-edge mayor, with an extraordinary ethical, social and civic vision. But also a man of exceptional positivity and kindness ».

How did you react to being crowned the best mayor in the world in terms of community building capacity?
Initially I took the candidacy as a joke, a small town published in such a big competition seemed like a “goliardata” to me. Then, as I progressed further into the final stages, I realized I had some chance. When the announcement of the award arrived, I couldn’t believe it. A town of just under 1,200 inhabitants that wins over cities of the caliber of Rome and Milan …

At the base of his work is the choice to focus on the involvement of citizens, not just on participation. Explain the reason?
The problem with participation is that it leaves the person passive. Involvement, on the other hand, makes you co-responsible, the key word of my philosophy.

What then were the concrete steps to make citizens co-responsible?
It was a huge job, I changed the municipal statute. Through this request for involvement we have enhanced the relational richness that exists within small towns. For example, we changed the names of the streets, and it was the citizens themselves who chose them, through a referendum. Then when the town hall lacked an elevator, we did a crowdfunding, to create that sense of belonging to the territory and remove the person from indifference: we could have done it a year earlier, but it wouldn’t have made the same sense. Or again, to redo a fountain we asked the boys of some schools to make all the systems and pipes, only afterwards did we contact a company.

Citizens of the Municipality of San Bellino

Even during the first lockdown he carried out commendable initiatives, from a photographic contest to the provision of a psychologist for single people
Let me give you another example: I picked up the difficulties of a merchant who had old flowers that he would have thrown in the landfill. So I bought them and distributed them to the citizens, alleviating the economic difficulties and at the same time easing the burden of being imprisoned at home. I did the same with the farmers who would have been forced to throw away the September harvest; I donated some boxes, called “Cultivate shares” in order to cover the costs of the company and beautify the homes of the citizens. Following my motto “forbidden not to copy”, the Municipality of Padua has also replicated the initiative. The idea was to set the citizen in motion so that he could live that tragic experience in the best possible mood. At the end of the first wave, we had no contagion.

You teach religion at the Ottavio Munerati agricultural technical institute: how did you combine your passion for teaching with the study of sustainability and the environment?
During the years of teaching I have refined the relationships with colleagues and I have made more aware of the sensitivity I have for the environment. In our school the students don’t take the buses, we do all the cycling tours. We have created a golf course, so that on the one hand the child can learn the techniques, and on the other hand he understands how the turf works.

And in all this the Mayor also does …
I have been the mayor since 2014 but I started in 1999 as a city councilor. Doing things with passion changes everything radically. We have stimulated advisors and employees, creating a real collective, a laboratory of virtuous actions replicated in wider contexts.

For example, in addition to the “Cultivate actions”, the initiative “Let’s give a smile back to the Po Valley”
In the territory of the Municipality of San Bellino there is the largest photovoltaic field in Europe, which supplies clean energy to more than 20,000 families. We have therefore always been committed to promoting “green” initiatives. As for “Let’s smile back to the Po Valley”, it is an initiative that was born in the beginning with two other cities, it consisted in giving a plant for each inhabitant. Then we passed the ball to the Veneto Region, which produced native plants from the regional nursery: in 40 days we distributed 70,000 to more than 400 municipalities. We have put together councils of different political backgrounds, because there is no time to waste on the environment. We all have to row in the same direction.


Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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