Tallinn got a new Mayor

At an extraordinary meeting held today the Tallinn City Council elected its current Chairman Mihhail Kõlvart as the new Mayor with 45 votes in favour.

Mihhail Kõlvart’s speech:

“Thank you for your trust and support. It is an honour as well as a great responsibility to be elected to such a prestigious position that has been held in the past by important historical figures like Voldemar Lender and Jaan Poska.

I noticed that the year of my election happens to be somewhat symbolic - last year we celebrated the centenary of the Estonian Republic whereas this year we celebrate the Estonian Language Year and the 150th anniversary of the first nationwide Song Festival. The Estonian language is a symbol of our country. The Estonian language is the core element of Estonian identity and the foundation of Estonian culture. Everyone living in Estonia should understand the importance of the Estonian language and its cultural context. However, we should acknowledge that Russians and other ethnic nationalities living beside us value their language and culture. Cultures can be complementary provided that there is no conflict between them and that the different ethnic nationalities enjoy freedom of expression and support each other.

Cooperation fosters development, including political development. 115 years ago Estonians assumed public authority in the City of Tallinn for the first time. The Estonian and Russian factions supported one another to take control away from Germans and gain the necessary majority for voting on important issues. Tallinn has always played a special role in Estonian history, including in promoting and shaping the country’s independence. As the Mayor of the city which will soon celebrate its 800th anniversary I aim to serve and work for all its citizens regardless of my native language or theirs.

Urban governance requires a clear vision and availability of support structures. We need to have a holistic view of the city’s present situation and its future which means that to draw a proper roadmap we need to be able to envision what the city should look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years. That vision should integrate all areas of urban life - urban planning combined with a system of municipal services. A good example here is education which connects to all other areas ranging from urban planning and social welfare to morning traffic jams. Vision means the ability to see the connections between the various elements of urban management. It also means the ability to design regular routines so as to allow harmonious development of the city and maximise the accessibility and streamline municipal services.

Vision needs to be supported by structure whereas vision and structure should evolve hand in hand. If you would ask me whether municipal structures require changing and whether I see those changes coming, I would say ‘yes’. But such changes will not be based on an Excel spreadsheet and we will not cut back the number of agencies or officials to achieve mere numerical targets. We need substantive changes aimed at improving the quality of services provided to our citizens.

Developing the City of Tallinn is a complex task because developing a modern European urban environment requires preserving historical as well as environmental values. And I will endeavour to do my best.”

Mihhail Kõlvart has been the Chairman of the City Council since autumn 2017 and in 2011-2017 he served as Deputy Mayor of Tallinn coordinating the areas of education, culture, sports, youth work and integration. Mihhail Kõlvart is a Member of the Executive Board of the Estonian Olympic Committee.

Mihhail Kõlvart will assume the office of Mayor as of tomorrow.

The previous Mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas took up office as a Member of Parliament.