Steen Wrist: Fredericia has put sustainability at the top of its agenda
An interview with the Mayor of Fredericia, Denmark
Steen Wrist was born on 9 December 1980 in Harboøre. In 2013, he became a member of the City Council in Fredericia. On 9 December 2020, Wrist was elected as a mayoral candidate and on 30 December 2020, Jacob Bjerregaard resigned from his post as Mayor. Steen Wrist thus took over as the new Mayor of Fredericia on 1 January 2021 after he was unanimously elected by the City Council.
Mr Mayor, how would you describe the city of Fredericia?
Fredericia is a city in constant transformation. King Frederik the 3rd founded the city in 1650 as a royal fortification. Fredericia ramparts, which encircle the town centre, are among the most well preserved in northern Europe.
In the 19th century, Fredericia became one of the most important industrial cities in Denmark. Today, the city is located in the heart of one of Denmark’s key growth areas – the Triangle Region – and is one of Denmark’s largest traffic hubs.
The Canal District of Fredericia – Kanalbyen – is transforming a former industrial site located between the historical city centre and the central harbour front of Fredericia into a vibrant and sustainable canal district.
Kanalbyen is a prime example of smart city development as most solutions serve more than one purpose. For example, dirt from the excavation of the canals will be used to raise the entire area. This will protect the new canal district as well as the historical city centre from flooding caused by climate changes.
In January 2021, you assumed office and became the Mayor of Fredericia. What are your plans for the city and its future development?
One of my key priorities as mayor is that everyday life in Fredericia must cohere. Sending your children to school and kindergarten must be a safe thing to do as a parent. Time, space, and facilities that encourage children to play and learn are important. Good job opportunities are also essential.
In order to enable this, we as a municipality must strive towards creating the right environment for both small, medium and large enterprises. And in the end, Fredericia must be a good place for seniors to spend their retirement after a lifetime of work.
Together with 46 municipalities in Denmark, Fredericia has put sustainability at the top of its agenda by joining the DK2020 network. Far more sustainability initiatives are developing along the way as the municipality continues its journey towards reaching the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
The municipality is enriched with some great parks and green spaces like Trelde Næs – a Danish Nature Canon and the ramparts in the city of Fredericia. Fredericia is also one of the cities situated along the Nature Park Lillebælt which is the largest nature park in Denmark. The city has a stretch of coast of approximately 46 km. These are all surroundings, which offers authentic nature experiences.
Just as history and nature are important to the city, musicals are a huge part of the city’s DNA. Fredericia has a goal to become a Danish capital of musicals with our newly reopened musical theatre. Nature, history, and culture are major tourist attractions that we will be focusing on branding even more in the future.
As you mentioned, the city is found in the Triangle Region and it is Denmark’s largest transportation hub. How has the pandemic impacted the transport industry and other businesses in the city?
The pandemic is leaving its footprint on most sectors. On the one hand, the e-retail logistics, on-demand, and last-mile delivery sectors are amongst the highest growth sectors as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. On the other hand, sectors in tourism, such as restaurants and shops in the city are some of the most affected by the pandemic.
Expanding on the two previous questions, do you have any specific projects in mind for the city’s post-COVID recovery?
One of my key priorities, as well as the Town Council’s, is to ensure that Fredericia gets through the COVID-19 crisis together. In 2020, the Town Council of Fredericia approved a historically big investment in facilities, infrastructure, and buildings to keep the wheels turning.
The municipality of Fredericia cooperates with local businesses and partners planning activities in the city of Fredericia to keep the city “alive” under the pandemic. Last summer we had many summer games and outdoor activities especially for young people. At Christmas time we had a Christmas market, and the streets were flooded with lights. With ‘Experience Fredericia’ we are boosting the trade fair industry and business tourism, which Fredericia is also known for.