04192018

Commitment

© Stadt Frankfurt am Main

© Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann is a person who takes care of others. He demonstrates to his fellow Social Democrats, many of whom right now are mired in crisis, how to maintain people’s trust. In his six years in office, Feldmann has remained committed to ensuring the availability of affordable housing in the high-cost financial hub. He also succeeded in lowering fares for public transportation in the city. This social commitment has been rewarded by Frankfurt’s residents. In the March 11 run-off election, Feldmann was re-elected with a 70-percent share of the votes.
Feldmann is Frankfurt’s first Jewish mayor since Ludwig Landmann was removed from his post by the Nazis. Largely unknown, Feldmann was able to run for mayor in 2012 because prominent Social Democrats were reluctant to take on the Christian Democratic candidate, who was a clear favorite. Feldmann ran a well-organized grassroots campaign, knocking on many doors, scoring a surprising upset. He won over Frankfurt’s voters. “I think politicians need to be close to the people to better understand their concerns and requirements,” he said after taking office on July 1, 2012. Over the years, he has stayed true to his principles. His commitment and dedication are also products of his own upbringing. Although his father was a psychologist and his mother a teacher, Feldmann grew up in a working-class neighborhood in the north of the city, which today has fallen on hard times. Young Feldmann witnessed the struggles of many his neighbors in the high-rise development. That may well have shaped his choice of profession. After completing high school in Frankfurt and studying politics in Marburg, he worked as head of a youth center and later as a managing director of a nursing center. He became active in the SPD at a young age. He was the city school representative for the Young Socialists. In 1989, he became a city councilor but maintained a low profile until 2012, when he decided to seize the opportunity.
According to Feldmann, “Religion is a private matter.” But his Jewish faith is important to him. Before attending university, he spent two years living on a kibbutz. In 2007, he founded the Working Group of Jewish Social Democrats. One of his first official trips as mayor took him to Frankfurt’s partner city Tel Aviv. In an interview with a tabloid last year, he described how in 2015, on an official visit to Tel Aviv with a large delegation from Frankfurt, he proposed to his wife, Zübeyde Feldmann.

Effective leadership

As this story shows, Peter Feldmann has learned how to play to the cameras. At the beginning of his tenure, the city found him rather lacking in glamour. Many fondly recalled his predecessor, the longtime conservative mayor Petra Roth, a popular politician who was a familiar figure across the country.
As the recent election results show, Feldmann has meanwhile won wide respect. He has also become more comfortable with the rhetorical and persuasive demands of his office. His effective leadership is frequently praised by Social Democrats across the country. And it’s no wonder: in a field of 11 candidates during the first electoral round on February 25, Feldmann secured 46 percent of the vote – more than double what the SPD was expected to achieve in that election.
The Social Democrats meanwhile have the saying that learning from Feldmann means learning how to win. But Feldmann, who will turn 60 in October, has no plans to seek state or national office. As mayor of his home city, he will be able to help people more directly. For Feldmann, that is a Jewish ethical imperative. ■

Photo Credit: Stadt Frankfurt am Main

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