What was it like for you to grow up in Rotterdam?
‘I have great memories of my youth. As a kid, I grew up in IJsselmonde and Charlois. Then, in secondary school, my RET pass for zone 5314 opened up a whole new Rotterdam for me. I discovered it’s really a sprawling city composed of lots of little “villages”. My parents felt Katendrecht and Central Station weren’t safe at the time and didn’t let me go there. To put it bluntly, back then this area was a mess. Looking at the Central District now, you see a revamped and dynamic area that is still in full development.’
How did you experience the city as a student?
‘It was basically an extension of the life I already led. I played football three times a week, with matches on Saturdays. I did well studying history and have good memories of my tutors. When starting on my thesis, though, I began to feel hemmed in. Everything was moving so fast and I didn’t want start a proper job so young. Due to temp jobs at places like Unilever and ABN AMRO through Randstad, my studies got pushed to a back burner. The upshot was that it took me seven years to complete my degree.’
You’ve held a number of municipal posts. How did you get into politics?
‘That didn’t happen until after university. When my football mates got faster and better at it than me, I decided it was time for a new hobby – and politics was it. Becoming a member of the Rotterdam VVD was the first step. In a city like Rotterdam that’s diverse in so many ways, my eye’s on connecting and political civic-mindedness. These topics speak to me. My parents taught me the importance of engagement with society. Don’t only focus on yourself; think about all those others, too.’