EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ana Mula – “Extremely hard-working, close and headstrong”

ANA MULA: “Even when I’m not working, I never switch off.”

You have been with Fuengirola Council for some time before becoming mayor, what made you want to get into politics in the first place?
I studied to be a lawyer and started working in the tax office at Fuengirola Town Hall as a place to start my career. At the time, I was rather disappointed how little the previous governing team had been doing with a town which had great potential and when I saw what Esperanza Oña and her team wanted to do and how they wanted to work for the local people, I was keen to embark on this journey with them so it didn’t take her too much to convince me.
How would you define yourself as a politician in three words?
Extremely hard-working, close and headstrong.
What do you like most about Fuengirola and how do you describe it to others?
I always say that Fuengirola is the best town in the world! It’s the ideal place to live, have a family and start a business because it has everything you could want in quite a small area. People are friendly and welcoming. We really have it all.
Which of the projects which have gone ahead in Fuengirola since you have been mayor are you most pleased about?
Every single project which is carried out is important to the town, even if not as a whole, to the area which it affects and each one is a great achievement in its own way. The reorganisation of Avenida Alcalde Clemente Diaz Ruiz was a hugely important project, the new Training Centre in Carvajal is of great importance to Fuengirola, the refurbishment of the Mercacentro market is a huge improvement and we are still working on improving the local marina… but I think everything we do is important.
How has the council reached out to people and helped them throughout the pandemic?
We had to make a huge effort to restructure everything, including budgets, so that we could remain close to people and help them. One of our priorities was making sure that the most vulnerable people in the town were able to constantly remain in touch with us and reach out to us for anything that they needed, from medicines and shopping, to money to pay their bills. We made it a priority to make sure that all local families had what they needed to get by. We also made sure that the homeless who live in the town also had access to the resources that they needed. Meanwhile we have also helped out local businesses in many ways.
What has the council done to help local businesses and encourage new business in the town?
We have invested millions to help businesses in Fuengirola. We have supported the catering sector especially, and we have allowed them, where possible, to use more space on the pavements to ensure social distancing while having stopped charging the tax for using the area. As well as this we have given financial aid to self-employed workers in the town, we have done away with the market stall taxes.
This has required significant changes to our budget and accounts for a huge amount of money, but it is well worth it to help local businesses keep going, as they are the financial structure of the town and give work to lots of other people. To continue to encourage people to set up their businesses in Fuengirola, we have done away with the tax for the opening licence at least until the end of this year.
What do you like to do when you are not performing your duties as mayor?
I enjoy simple things, like listening to music and reading. I also enjoy taking walks and enjoying what Fuengirola has to offer, but of course even when I’m not working, I never switch off and when I’m out for a walk, I’ll notice things that need improving and repairing. It’s not a problem though, I love my job.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Not being able to help people when they need it. Although I’m very tenacious, and if I can’t help them in one way, I’ll keep going over the problem in my head until I find some sort of solution.
Your party has led in Fuengirola for many years now, what do you think is the main reason for local people’s trust in you?
In the beginning people saw that we were a young and enthusiastic team who wanted to make a break from the previous style of governing in the town and make improvements for Fuengirola, really change it for the better. At the time there was a huge deficit, there wasn’t even enough to pay for petrol, and the town was not being properly promoted, but we changed all that and look where it has got us today. To do so, we have worked closely with the locals, listening to their needs and acting upon them, as well as allowing them to take part in the decisions that are made.
How do you feel the foreign population has adapted to life in Fuengirola?
The foreign population is an important part of Fuengirola. With around 130 different nationalities in the town, it makes it very cosmopolitan, and they have each brought with them their customs, languages, foods, cultures, etc which is very enriching. Foreign residents also have a large number of businesses in Fuengirola, so financially, they are of huge importance too.
What is done to make life easier for foreigners who choose Fuengirola as the new home or place of business?
We want to make sure they know that they are an important part of the town and that their opinions matter. We have a Foreign Residents’ Department which works hard to make things easy to understand and to carry out for anyone who is new to Fuengirola and we make sure that everyone knows they are welcome here, to settle with their family, to start a business… We want to continue to encourage people to come here.
What is being done for the younger inhabitants of Fuengirola, in terms of education, culture, activities, leisure areas, etc?
They are quite hard to please, because even if we tend to think that all youths basically enjoy the same sort of things, this is definitely not the case. So we have to make sure that all departments of the council work together to offer them a wide variety of options to fill their free time. Not only that, we make sure that local youths know that they are wanted as an important part of the community.
We hold meetings with volunteers every month in which the proposals of local youngsters are taken into account and they are able to see everything that goes into making a proposal become a reality. In Fuengirola, they know that their voices are heard, whether they are interested in sports, music, science or anything else. It’s also great to see how involved they are with caring for the environment.
What about for the older residents?
Catering for the older residents is one of our priorities, as they need to be able to enjoy their free time and feel that they are supported and not alone. We also hold meetings with the elderly so that they can tell us what they want, which is mainly to be able to travel, so we have organised short trips for them so that all types of people can expand their horizons.
We are also involved in a pilot scheme which is pioneering in Spain and involves 20 elderly residents of Fuengirola, by which they have 24h video contact with the council. They have tablets, and with them they are able to talk to each other, to the council, to me… as well as receive reminders to do things like take their medicine, and take part in exercises to keep fit amongst many other things. That way, they can never feel alone.
Fuengirola is, without a doubt, well-known as a tourist destination, what else would you say it is best known for and what would you like it to become known for beyond our borders?
It used to be known just for the sun and sand. We have invested in the town to make sure that the historical heritage was restored and promoted, we have brought the Mare Nostrum musical events to the Sohail Castle gardens which attracts internationally acclaimed artists and brings audiences from near and far.
We are known for being pioneers in the use of advanced technology, such as drones for beach surveillance and systems to control the number of people accessing our beaches. This is something that we want to continue to promote and we will give our support to business projects which efficiently use technology to improve the quality of life in Fuengirola.

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