LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital

Amsterdam Has Had a Mayor for Centuries. Femke Halsema Is About to Become Its First Female One

June 28, 2018, 10:05 AM UTC

Femke Halsema is expected to be named Amsterdam’s mayor, a move that would make her the first-ever woman to lead the city of canals and bicycles since that role was created centuries ago.

A former leader of the Green party in parliament, Halsema, 52, was nominated by the city council on Wednesday evening, with the Dutch government set to make the final decision at a later date. Although primarily a titular role, mayors in the Netherlands are responsible for safety and public order in their municipalities.

Halsema will be taking the helm as the Dutch capital juggles the conflicting needs of locals and outsiders. Long-term residents demand affordable houses as prices have skyrocketed. They also complain about swarms of tourists flocking the city’s streets. At the same time, Amsterdam wants to lure companies, both linked to Brexit and others, to boost its economy, adding even more people and pressure on the housing market.

The city has been successful in getting companies to set up camp — in November, it scored a major coup by winning the bid to host the European Medicines Agency as its leaves London.

In the last week alone, a report in the Financial News said that high-speed trading firm Jump Trading has informed about 12 traders at its London city offices that they could be shifted to Amsterdam before the end of the year, while Spain’s Ferrovial has decided to move its international holding company out of Britain. Ferrovial said on June 26 the move to Amsterdam doesn’t involve any transfer of jobs.

Labor’s Decline

The nomination of Halsema marks the first time since the 1940s the largest Dutch city would have a mayor who’s not from the Labor party, reflecting that party’s dismal electoral performance both nationally and in the city.

In May, the Greens, the centrist D66 party, and the Labor and Socialist parties agreed to form a new city government on a platform that includes a big increase in affordable housing. The alliance plans 7,500 new houses a year, a third of which will be earmarked as social housing for low-income households. The share of social housing in certain areas of the city will be actively monitored to ensure it doesn’t drop below 45%.

Halsema was a member of the lower house of parliament in The Hague between 1998 and 2010, with her taking the role as leader of that faction from 2002. Halsema’s predecessor Eberhard van der Laan died in October of last year from lung cancer, with Jozias van Aartsen eventually taking over as acting mayor. She is expected to be sworn in in the summer, according to a statement from the city.