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The final of the 2023 Mayor of the Year competition in the Senate

W Senacie finał konkursu Sołtys Roku 2023

– No senator will dare to disappoint the village heads, because we know how much strength you have, how hard, grassroots work you do, how many women there are among you – said Marshal Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, thanking the village heads, among others. for the ability to engage in dialogue with residents to change their villages and change Poland for the better.

I am glad that there is such a strong group in the Senate, the best of the best. You have no holidays, no free time, you are always available to your residents, she emphasized.

Marshal Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska assured that the Senate will always support village heads in their arduous but very necessary work and will cooperate with them.

President Andrzej Duda sent a letter to the winners of the "Sołtys of the Year 2023" competition, read by Barbara Fedyszak-Radziejowska. As the president wrote:

The work of a village head requires sensitivity to other people and I thank you for this sensitivity.

Ryszard Jałoszyński, editor-in-chief of "Gazeta Sołecka", emphasized that the competition is primarily intended to honor exemplary village heads. Many of them want to share their experiences and ideas that inspire others with the newspaper's readers, including: There is a section entitled "In the voice of the village head".

– Do not clip the wings of village heads – appealed Maria Kłosiewcz, who expressed her thanks on behalf of the competition winners, emphasizing how socially important the work they perform is. “Take care of them and you will have a beautiful local government,” she argued.

Who won the title of Village Head of the Year 2023?

  • Tomasz Chmarzyński (Lipienek village, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship),
  • Tomasz Chrzanowski (Nowa Wieś Wschodnia commune, Masovian Voivodeship),
  • Jolanta Fludra (Śródka village, Greater Poland Voivodeship),
  • Maria Kłosiewicz (Grzegorzewice village, Masovian Voivodeship),
  • Mariola Kondracka (Biedrzychowice commune, Lower Silesian Voivodeship),
  • Monika Kosińska, (Trzebieszewo commune, West Pomeranian Voivodeship), Magdalena Olszak (Marysin commune, Lublin Voivodeship),
  • Krystyna Talaga (Kalsk village, Lubusz Voivodeship),
  • Marcin Walkowiak (Nieszawa village, Greater Poland Voivodeship).

In this edition of the competition , the title of Senior Village Head was awarded to Fryderyk Białoń (Kowale Village, Silesian Voivodeship), who has been a village head for 48 years.

The aim of the competition is to promote the most active village heads who work for local communities. Candidates may be submitted by: village councils, village residents, parish councils, as well as non-governmental organizations, including: volunteer fire brigades and rural housewives' associations, associations of village heads at all levels and local government bodies – commune councils, commune heads and mayors. The winners were selected by the Competition Chapter composed of members of the editorial staff of "Gazeta Sołecka" and experts from the National Association of Village Heads, taking into account the candidate's impact on the integration of the local community, the material effects of his work, the duration of his term of office as a village head combined with the effects of his activities and further plans and strategies related to village council.

The competition gala was preceded by the conference "Sołtys and village heads – in the mainstream of civic self-government and involvement in public affairs", which was opened by the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Ryszard Bober. He recalled that this year marks the 35th anniversary of free self-government and 20 years of Polish membership in the European Union. In his opinion, thanks to EU funds, Polish agriculture and the Polish countryside are developing beautifully. As he emphasized, it was also thanks to the efforts of the village headmen. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture thanked the village heads for their social activity, without which all this would not have been possible. He also thanked us for nurturing our identity, culture and rural character so beautifully. According to senator Ryszard Bober, it is not easy to be a village head, especially since the Polish village is changing, which is no longer just a place of food production, but is becoming a place of residence and life. Therefore, we need to consider how to sensibly combine these two functions of the Polish countryside, as well as what to do to increase social activity in our small homelands.

Openness to the voices of Polish village heads was declared by Vice-Marshal Magdalena Biejat, who emphasized that she was a fan of their work performed so close to people.

– Like a lightning rod, you collect all the discharges and you need to have great mental resilience to act as a village head – said the chairman of the Local Government and State Administration Committee, Senator Zygmunt Frankiewicz, summarizing the conference. As he pointed out, it recalled the political changes initiated 35 years ago, at the same time raising awareness of what needs to be changed, primarily in the issue of the defective legal personality of village councils. We also need to train village heads better and on a larger scale, and enable the establishment of village councils of youth and seniors. According to the senator, village councils are the salt of local democracy, and their problems should be the responsibility of municipal councils. The chairman of the Senate committee on local government declared that matters requiring legislative changes at the parliamentary level would be implemented by senators.

During the conference, Grażyna Jagieł-Dębska, vice-president of the National Association of Village Heads and president of the Association of Village Heads of Mazovia, spoke about the village head and the village head as the foundation of democracy in rural areas. In her speech, she recalled the legal basis for the functioning of village heads and village councils. She also recalled that it was in the Senate that the local government reform was started in the Senate, thanks to senators Jerzy Regulski and Jerzy Stępień, as well as advisor Michał Kulesza. She pointed to their lack of legal personality as an extremely important problem with fundamental consequences for village communities. It would enable easier access to external funds, and the voice of village heads would be better heard and taken more seriously by the authorities. As she emphasized, today's village heads are often well-educated young people, open to new challenges and ready to broaden their horizons. They deny the stereotype of the village head – a "peasant in wallets". Among the issues to be dealt with, she mentioned the subjectivity of the village head, the creation of youth village councils, and the organization of as many training courses as possible. Unfortunately, the reality of villages is often old, archaic statutes that do not specify the scope of activities of the village, the rules for transferring property components for use or the transfer of budget funds for the implementation of tasks. There are no legal provisions regarding the village logo, the village council of seniors' seal, the village head's plaque and the emblem. The village cannot establish a village youth council, there is no legal basis for establishing a village council of village heads or a council of village heads under the mayor, and village allowances and the village fund are not obligatory.

The history and achievements of village head associations in Poland, which have been serving rural residents and civil society for over 30 years, were discussed by Ireneusz Niewiarowski, president of the National Association of Village Heads, senator of the 1st, 7th and 8th terms.

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