European Union officials have praised Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of the Greek city of Thessaloniki. Boutaris has been pushing ahead with far-reaching reforms to undo the abuses of his predecessors and has already slashed the city’s spending by 30 percent. He’s even asking the Germans for advice.
Boutaris is the most unusual politician in Greece, despite his insistence that he is not a politician at all. “There isn’t any money left to buy voters,” says Boutaris. Shortly after taking office, Boutaris traveled to Istanbul to launch a campaign to convince the Turks, Greece’s traditional enemies, to pay a visit to “our old city.” In his first week as mayor, Boutaris hired an auditor.
The conservative New Democracy party controlled city hall for 24 years, holding the city hostage with its cronies. People wanted change. Under Boutaris’s predecessor, €51.4 million ($68.4 million) had suddenly and inexplicably disappeared from the city budget.
Boutaris presents a stark contrast to his predecessors. For instance, Boutaris has hired a personnel manager to evaluate civil servants and their work. In Thessaloniki, Vassilis Kappas, 42, addresses reforms in the city administration. He says: “We have almost 5,000 employees here, but we only need 3,000.”