Lapta Mayor Talks To Kyrenia Post After His First 4 Months Term In Office
By Halyna Shymanska
It was a beautifully sunny morning at Lapta Municipality HQ, high up on the hillside with a breathtaking view out, down and over the village to the glistening blue Mediterranean sea. A view which would surely rival any municipality office anywhere in the world? I was there, by invitation of the newly elected Mayor of Lapta, Mustafa Aktuğ, who kindly took time out of his very busy schedule to speak with me about his first 4 month term in office, taking over from his predecessor who held the position for 24 years.
– Please accept our sincere congratulations on your first 4 months in office. What made you decide to run for Mayor?
Thank you. Although I am graduate of the faculty of Physical Education and Teaching at Karadeniz Technical University, I have never actually taught due to the many embargoes and conditions placed on Northern Cyprus. I have been working as a Lapta municipality employee since 2001 and I am now the Mayor. Dialogue with people has always been important to me, I am always happy to help and it has always been my motto and ambition to leave a small smile on each an every persons face who comes seeking help or advice from me at the municipality. I have been working here since 2001 and unfortunately i’ve witnessed first hand how poorly run and mismanaged the municipality has become over the years. A combination of all these factors alongside my genuine love for Lapta prompted me to run for Mayor.
– Is the role as you expected, or have you been faced with more challenges than first thought?
As I said, for the last 17 years i’ve been working at the municipality. In that time I believe that I’ve come across almost every possible problem and scenario, and solved almost every issue with a fair solution. Of course it is not an easy task, but in my opinion we can create a far nicer, cleaner and sustainable Lapta and the surrounding Villages by working with the community in both the municipality and with non-governmental organizations as well as socialising together with the community.
– What are your long term visions and goals for Lapta and the surrounding areas?
Lapta and the surrounding villages are one of the most beautiful areas of Northern Cyprus and in fact all of Cyprus, with their nature and historical cultural values. The task for us is to bring our cultural heritage back to tourism in cooperation with our NGOs and to make Lapta, which is the starting point of tourism in Northern Cyprus, the tourism hub. Tourism is a great acceleration for the economy of our region. We are all so very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. It is obvious that all of the many diverse tourism sectors can be grown in this area. In our region, a wide variety is possible from faith tourism to eco-tourism, from sea wreck diving to birdwatching.
Before tourism can truly be created we first need to prepare the vast amount of historical sites we have in our area by way of subtly cleaning, carefully and thoughtfully restoring, cultivating and revitalising the area whilst also balancing the process by creating a modern, contemporary Lapta alongside, while retaining authentic character and charm which tourists from all over the world will want to visit.
– How do you organise, plan and prioritise your work?
I’ve been in my position as Mayor for 3 months now. Due to the poor financial state of our municipality, i’ve worked in this direction during these three months. Financial configuration seems to be the highest priority in the name of our municipality. The municipality is in huge debts of around 21 million Turkish Lira. Of course, our routine duties continue as usual. Without disrupting them, we are working on both financial structuring and future projects which will hopefully help with our debts.
– We know some of our community are struggling with the devaluation of the Turkish Lira, what measures have you taken as Mayor to try and ease the daily strain of your people and how are you managing to budget with the current financial crisis in our country?
As I said above, we have taken over a corrupt municipality. Of course, the economic crisis affects us as well as every sector. We are trying our best to pay and manage our employees and provide essential services without reflecting this crisis.
– We imagine that there are probably not enough hours in the day for you! How do you manage to balance your busy working schedule and still find time for family?
Good question. We’re going through a really tough time right now. I’m a new Mayor with a lot of problems in my municipality. I’m really spending about 18 hours of my 24 hours a day here, but I’m hopeful and I believe all will be okay eventually. My wife and children are very supportive and self-sacrificing and my parents help a lot too. Obviously when I’m not working I’m with them.
– How do you switch off from work? Or do you ever actually fully take time out with a position such as yours? What are some of your interests outside of work? Do you make full use of our beautiful island?
I really have been living in the municipality for the last four months, but of course I spend a little time away with my family and as an old football player and president of the sports club, I love to watch football.
– What do you hope to have achieved for Lapta and it’s community within the next five years?
My biggest aim is to create a systematic municipality that works with the public for the public, with its effective financial structure in place to eradicate debts.
– What are your personal aims and goals for the future?
To be a happily retired person who raised his children well and made a successful difference through his profession; like any hard working person aims for.
– Do you have any words or wishes for our treasured readers and the Kyrenia Post team?
I would like to say that you are our foreign citizens living here. We as the municipality of Lapta, live here with you as equals side by side. We work to help each and everyone of you in every way. For any society, the press is very important and news and articles have always contributed to the information and engagement of society. I wish Kyrenia Post success in this special and beautiful mission. I hope that we will work together for Lapta and the surrounding villages for many years to come.