How this 33-year-old Frenchman found himself mayor of a small Spanish village without wanting to

How this 33-year-old Frenchman found himself mayor of a small Spanish village without wanting to
How this 33-year-old Frenchman found himself mayor of a small Spanish village without wanting to

Life sometimes has funny surprises in store, and it’s not Flavien Paget who would say otherwise. When he moved to Burgui, a small village in the region of Navarre (Spain), this Franche-Comtois who did not speak “not a word of Spanish” never imagined for a single second that he would one day become mayor.

No candidate for mayor

It all started in September 2019. After living for several years in Ireland, Iceland and Scotland, this jack-of-all-trades from the Territoire de Belfort decided to follow his partner to Burgui, where she grew up. A few months passed and confinement arrived. “I took the opportunity to learn the language and then I started making pizzas and flamekueches in my in-laws’ establishment”he tells us.

This activity, which he continued for three years, allowed him to quickly make a name for himself in Burgui. “When you work in the only bar in the village, you quickly become known. The people were very welcoming and friendly”continues this 33-year-old artist, a graduate of the Fine Arts in Metz and Lyon.

But when the municipal elections took place in May 2023, no one ran. A recurring situation in these small villages in the Pyrenees. “It’s a time-consuming job and there are often conflicts of interest that can be problematic. »

An ultimatum

The Navarre government then gave the village residents an ultimatum: either they found a list by November, or Burgui would be placed under its supervision. An option “unthinkable” for Flavien Paget. “It would have been terrible. Small villages need a mayor on site to maintain proximity. If we lose this, we lose everything”he says.

Taking his courage in both hands, the young man decided to set up a team of five people. Being the only one to live full time in the village, it was he who logically inherited the position of mayor, as our colleagues from France Bleu Belfort-Montbéliard . Among his assistants are a nurse, a social worker and a man working in a factory. “I tried to deal with very different skills”explains Flavien Paget.

An invested team

And it works: in six months, the new municipality has already made its mark. “They are super invested and I am really grateful to them”, confides the city councilor. The residents also seem satisfied. “The elders come to see me every two days to tell me that there is a hole in a street, a planter placed in the wrong place or a street lamp that does not work, he lists. These are anecdotal things but it’s the game of small villages and that’s the whole point. »

Although he regularly manages small, everyday things, Flavien Paget also has to deal with more complex issues such as that of farmers. Not to mention the weekly meetings and speeches in Spanish to the community of communes, which at the beginning were particularly “stressful”.

“If we all move forward together, we have more power”

Today, Flavien Paget is more involved than ever in the defense of his territory. Depopulation, employment, housing… “We share the same problems with the surrounding villages. If we all move forward together, we have more power”estimates the one who regularly participates in the assemblies of “La mesa de los pirineos”, a network bringing together all the villages of the Northern Pyrenees.

Flavien Paget probably derives this sensitivity from his first passion: art. He is convinced, it is necessary “integrate the societal system to analyze it, criticize it and make it evolve. The artist must be an actor in this movement through his position, his commitment and his role in the community”. A way of thinking which, he assures, “gives meaning to all the steps” as mayor.

Mayor and innkeeper

Elected for four years, the first magistrate of Burgui is also an innkeeper. In parallel with the meetings and his numerous requests, the Franc-Comtois offers room and board in the hotel he has just bought with his partner in the center of the village.

He, who has neither Spanish nationality nor the right to vote in his adopted country, except for municipal and European elections, now hopes to achieve his objectives as mayor. Among them: the renovations of the medieval bridge and the main square of this village that he loves so much. Flavien Paget is aware of this: “A mandate, generally, is never enough to carry out such projects… But we are not there yet. »

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