Jan Brenninkmeijer officially bade farewell on Monday evening. He was the Mayor of Waalre but stepped down.
That was after the councillors withdrew their confidence in him and an administrative crisis arose. “I considered our residents when I did that. But I miss it; I miss it every day,” Brenninkmeijer said during his farewell.
Due to the corona measures, Brenninkmeijer’s farewell was held digitally. This was done in a talk show setting. Residents of the municipality could stream the farewell.
Brenninkmeijer became emotional during some of his constituents speeches. “We wanted Jan Brenninkmeijer for six more years. Now we get 15 minutes,” Koen van Zon said.
“We’re addressing you while that’s not what we wanted at all. We’d have liked to see you as mayor for the next few years. The councillors don’t know the minutia that goes on in Waalre.”
“Maybe they should’ve asked you because you knew. Many associations and residents found refuge with the mayor. That seems to count for nothing,” Koen added.
“It does explain why there is such a distance between the politicians and residents.” Koen, Inge Baselmans and Tanja de Leeuw spoke on behalf of their, and other, associations. Tanja was the one who had started a petition to keep Brenninkmeijer as Mayor.
‘We’ll never forget you’
“The petition that we support you. We still do. We’ll never forget you”, Tanja said. Among others, 36 associations signed the petition.
During the farewell, Brenninkmeijer was referred to as a burgervader (father of the citizens) several times. Current Mayor, Jan Boelhouwer, couldn’t resist asking Brenninkmeijer what his secret is.
“It starts with being there, being yourself, being there for the people,” Brenninkmeijer answered. “Really taking citizens seriously. It isn’t a trick; it’s simply being present.”
Jo Claessen of the AWB also addressed the former Mayor on behalf of the entire council. “As Mayor, you never satisfied all the parties.”
Things went wrong
“You had to keep so many balls in the air that all the parties had to pitch in. If that doesn’t happen, things go wrong. And a situation like the one in Waalre arises”, he said.
Brenninkmeijer himself also referred to the administrative crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is partly to blame for this. “In some situations, you have to be able to talk things out face-to-face. If that doesn’t happen, things fall apart. That’s what happened in Waalre.”
The former Mayor feels conflicted about his departure. “There are two sides to it. It had to be this way, but it was absolutely not my wish”. This had been his dream job, he says. But he’s resigned himself to leaving and is looking forward to new challenges.
Editor: Melinda Walraven