Running for Mayor in Romania

Running for Mayor in Romania

By Eugene S. Robinson

Ion Robu
SourceIon Robu


Because government is not just about the screaming.

By Eugene S. Robinson

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Ion Robu
Crivat, Romania

I just turned 57 and I grew up in Crivat, in the county of Calarasi, not too far from Bucharest. I haven’t always been a politician. My parents were simple people from the countryside who worked the land. My father was a very skilled carpenter, and on top of that he tried different things, like being the town barber, fixing the leather straps for horse saddles, wine producer, butcher, overall pretty much a Romanian MacGyver.

But I decided to become an entrepreneur. We ran food markets and sold anything really but mostly things like coffee, beer, cigarettes and so on. I was already married. We had one daughter and now I’m a grandfather. I became a politician more than 15 years ago because I saw that I could definitely bring something new to the job. This, and I wanted to help the place where I was born grow into a beautiful place to live. 

Most of the rich people who took advantage of the post-communist period after 1989 were arrested, and it didn’t matter how rich or influential you were.

We’re a small village of 2,143 people, but what most people who are not Romanian get wrong about Romania, or even Eastern Europe, has to do with corruption, either because they’re judging the entire country on what happens when Romanians migrate or what happened after communism. In the last five years, this has changed and most of the rich people who took advantage of the post-communist period after 1989 were arrested, and it didn’t matter how rich or influential you were then. You had to face the law and jail too.

Which is how I ended up part of the National Liberal Party. It’s a liberal-conservative political party in Romania that’s center-right and generally believes in democracy, private property, freedom of choice, market competition, diversity and open dialogue. The election is Sept. 27, so right now I’m campaigning.

Campaigning is very stressful, with very little sleep. I pretty much spend my days walking from house to house and adjusting to each person that’s in front of me: old, young, people with disabilities. People had been complaining that I was losing touch with them, even though it was because of our EU projects. These were very time-consuming.

But this, in general, was good for us. Romania is on a climbing trend right now, especially in rural parts, where most are now connected to natural gas, water and sewer systems. The EU definitely was a great help for Romania. Doesn’t change that people still want to see my face.

And if I win it won’t change the fact that I will push to continue having the city connected to natural gas, as well as building parks and playgrounds for kids, sidewalks and bike paths, video surveillance [systems] and free wireless internet, building a new bridge over the Arges River, a new irrigation system and hiring assistants for older and disabled people.


Ion Robu on the campaign trail.

But people want to see me. So I will see them even if it takes a lot from my personal life. I was first elected mayor back in 2012, and I haven’t had a proper vacation since then. This will be my third term in office. If I win.

You know, once you’re part of the EU, as a mayor you can access funds, which I have, but our city is currently debt-free too. So while the people running against me have good intentions, I’m thinking experience is worth more than good intentions. I’m talking about public administration.

So I’ve used the funds to grow businesses in the city, as well as after-school programs, and [address] infrastructure issues. This is the job, and if I didn’t love it there’s no way I’d be wanting to do it for a third time. Maybe it’s different when you have more people and a larger government, but with a little over 2,000 people in our village, it’s a delight to just be helping people. Even if I don’t get to sleep much at the end of my day.