Rafał Piech – a natural leader and a progressive, and a cautious host at Siemianowice Śląskie

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Setting the bar high all the time

The family of Rafał Piech, the president of Siemianowice Śląskie, have lived in this town for several generations, and he has known the life from different sides here … He is not afraid of any jobs – before he became a manager, he worked as a street sweeper. He takes his current position as a mission, dedicating 24 hours per day in his job. Thanks to such involvement he has achieved all goals of his electoral programme, and even more. In his private life he is a husband and a father to three children, and also a squash instructor.

The qualities of a leader and a community worker

Rafał Piech showed entrepreneurial skills already in primary school and he wanted to manage a team, he dreamed of running his own company. He earned his first money at the age of 12 by selling irises growing in the wild. He spent the money on sneakers. He also acted as the chairman of the class in technical high school and he already felt the need to help others.

The president thinks that apart from having such qualities as perseverance, prudence, courage, and honesty, every president should show flexibility and openness to the people’s needs. He admits to be a communicative person, so has no problem with that – he is himself. He gets in touch personally with the citizens, but also via modern solutions, for example on facebook, which makes it easier to contact more people.

The president emphasizes the difference between the town president’s role and the CEO’s at a company, because the latter one manages a limited number of people, and the president is responsible for a several hundred team of employees at the municipality and all its citizens. Therefore, he has to have a dialogue with them all the time, he has to keep in touch and listen to their voice. He also supervises the education and health institutions. This involves a great challenge and responsibility.

–          You have to dedicate a lot of time when being the town host, so I am really grateful to my wife who has to be very patient with me when I still have phone conversations about my work at 22:00 – the president admits. – I think this job is a mission, because I do it 24 hours per day. The time when I am asleep is for me the time after which I wake up and have an idea to be applied in our town.

The time of getting education and professional skills

Rafał Piech graduated from a technical school of timber industry in Siemianowice. He liked the DIY. Thanks to the skills he got there, he made furniture by himself, which was placed first at his parents’ house, and then in his own house. These were tables, desks, chairs. He even had a small, but his own workshop.

Shortly after graduating from school he started his adult life, he set up a family and worked at a steel yard. He also took up extramural studies at Higher School of Marketing Management and Foreign Languages in Katowice, he majored in advertising, which turned out to be useful at his current position in promoting the town. His wife studied a similar faculty, but in the week time.

In 2001 – 2003 they had financial troubles when the steel yard was going bankrupt. The employees were paid the lowest remuneration in installments of 150,00 PLN per week. – When I was in the third year of studies my son was born and I had to look for a better paid job. I was hired at the Municipal Services Entity in Katowice where I started from the lowest level as a sweeper – the president smiles. Then he worked also as an inspector, a manager for the fleet and the materials for 7 years, and then he started working for the local government.

Community work

When being a student, he decided to act for the community by getting involved in the local government activities. He was a member of the political party Platforma Obywatelska, but later he preferred to act outside parties. He supported various charities, one of the biggest projects was giving a Christmas Eve party for two hundred children coming from families in need. This idea has been continued since 2006 until today. – Initially that Christmas meeting took place at a school gym, and now it is held at the Culture Center “Chemik” – explains the president Rafał Piech. – After the ceremonial dinner we hand in gifts to children and we sing carols together. We want to approach those families to help them through teachers.

In 2010 Rafał Piech became the councilor in the Association of the Siemianowice Residents. Using the funds collected at that time, he contributed to organizing the Siemianowice’s Got Talent show. He also continued the tradition of the Siemianowice Singing Contest “MIKOROFON SIEMIONA”. Being the councilor, he had more opportunities so he took part in various events supporting children and adolescents; they were trips, camps or other events for children coming from large families. After that he decided to run for the president seat in 2014 and he succeeded!

Fulfillment of the electoral programme

In terms of the housing policy, we took the inventory of our assets and it turned out we have over 200 apartments, which we could modernize for 2 mln zł, that is 10 times less than the cost of building new apartments – explains the president. – In the first year we handed them over to sixty families, this year we are planning to do a similar thing. The President informs also that the debt of rentals to the municipality amounts to 27 mln zł, excluding the interest rates. The decision was taken to split the liabilities to be paid in 60 installments. Another form of support is the possibility to work out the debt for the town. These solutions were accepted by many residents being in debt.

Another assumption to the electoral programme was concerned with health. The Siemianowice Municipality focused on improving the condition of the town hospital, which competes with a private center located nearby. The hospital management board was replaced, the quality of medical services and relations between doctors and patients were improved, a new team of surgeons was created. The hospital obtained subsidies from the Ministry of Health, from the Municipality, and thanks to that new equipment was purchased including the cardio-monitors or laparoscopes.  It is planned also to do thermo-modernization of the building.

There has been thriving economic development. The Investor Service Center was opened, the Economic Council was established of entrepreneurs who achieve economic successes, so they act as experts and give advice to the president on how to attract the investors’ interest. – Our goal is to attract to Siemianowice as many investors as possible to create job places. New companies have been set up all the time. There is a chance that a new plant of an automotive sector will be built here, which may give work to 700 people in the beginning, and to 2000 in total – reveals the president. The plant will manufacture components for cars. Some area in the economic zone will be dedicated to this. The area has several dozens of hectares and new companies have been set up there all the time.

–  I have put all the effort to fulfill all assumptions of the electoral programme and my impression is that I have even achieved more – says the president. He appreciates great support from the Employment Office, with which he has co-operated like none before. Subsidies have been used to give employment to the residents who do public works for the town. This might be, for example, painting the staircase in the above mentioned town buildings, which reduces the costs from 25 thousand to 1 500 zł. This way the unemployment rate gets also reduced and the taxpayers’ money is saved.

Recently the Culture Center “Zameczek” has been taken over and upgraded at low cost. Today the beautiful building attracts a lot of customers thanks to a white, mirror room where conferences and special events are held. Other places in Siemianowice are being modernized as well, for example the Sport Center is going to have a new track for skaters and a natural playground. An application has been made also to obtain external funds for modernization of the sport hall. The whole park area is being restored so that the residents could spend a nice time there after work and during the weekends.

Private life

The president’s wife works for the court. They have a partnership marriage; however, most often he comes up with new ideas, but they decide together about family issues. The president is a father to three children: the oldest son is 13 years old, the elder daughter is 8, and the youngest one is 4. – I come from a family of three children, so we lived modestly. The parents took a good care of us. My father had to do two jobs sometimes, especially in the time when my mother was on maternity leave. – admits the president. Having such experience I can feel sympathy with the residents in financial trouble.

In his free time he does sport, especially squash. Eight years ago he became the instructor of this discipline, so whenever he has free time, and it is not that much, he goes to a squash court with friends – it happens several times in the year. He also tries to encourage his son to do this sport, but he prefers football and plays in the Local Sport Club as a striker. Sometimes with his family they enjoy attractions at the Town Sport Center or at one of the three indoor swimming pools, and especially at the one after modernization, which has water slides for children. – I think sport teaches how to win, but also how to lose – says the president Rafał Piech.

The biggest achievements, plans and dreams

–   The biggest success I am proud of and I can boast with is the fact that I have done more than I promised in my electoral programme. I don’t know whether one could boast with this, but I am happy I managed to keep the promise, and even to do more than we planned to – he summarizes one and a half year of his presidency.

When talking about plans, he claims that he tries to raise the bar for himself and for the team, i.e. his deputy and the heads of departments. He relies on both young and experienced people – that is where the results come from. He assumes that after renovating all vacant apartments the time will come for building apartments. This year it is planned to modernize the roads and build car parks. The town authorities concentrate also on lowering the unemployment (by about 10%), which is very important, because 10 years ago the unemployment rate in this town of mining and steel industry exceeded thirty percent. – We also want to support the senior people, we try to organize time for them, because it is a big group of people – as much as thirty percent of our society – informs the president. We would like to develop co-operation with the partner towns as well. We reactivated contacts with the Hungarian town of Mohacz. Its authorities are coming to us in June to celebrate the Siemianowice Days. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I would like to wish to our residents enjoyable celebrations of the festive days and happiness with living in our town! 

Beata Sekuła

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