As part of our series “Faces of Fethiye”, Friends of Fethiye are delighted to have been given the opportunity to interview Fethiye Mayor, Alim Karaca. There were so many questions I wanted to ask him about his busy life as Mayor of Fethiye but thought it best to start at the beginning…
Hello, Melissa. Thank you for your invitation to participate in your interview, I am ready to answer all of your questions. I was elected in the local elections, and firstly, I would like to thank all the voters, who used their democratic right and voted for me.
Secondly, I appreciate that you have given this opportunity to me. Because, as a local politician, Turkish voters know me very well, but unfortunately I can’t say the same thing for our foreign friends.
Where you born in Fethiye?
I was born in Kumluova in 1973. When I was born, Kumluova was part of Fethiye. Now, Kumluova is part of Seydikemer, despite being just 60km away from Fethiye city centre. My family – my mother, brother and sisters – are still all living in Kumluova.
Can you tell us about your childhood / what it was like growing up in Kumluova?
When I was a child, unfortunately, there were not high-quality schools in Kumluova. So, my family sent me to Istanbul for a better education. I graduated from Ömer Sabancı secondary and high schools in Istanbul.
After my Istanbul years, I came back to Fethiye, where I completed my university degree. I graduated from Anadolu University, with a degree in Public Administration.
Do you have any special memories from this time in your life?
When I was just a teenager in Istanbul, my father passed away suddenly. You can imagine it was an unbelievable shock for me. As a young guy, you are far away from your home and family, and one day your father passes away unexpectedly.
But, of course, life brings you some good things too. When I was at high school in Istanbul, I played volleyball for a well-known Turkish team called ENKA. I have some good memories with my teammates.
Can you tell us a little about your family life?
Well, I am married to Çiğdem Karaca. My wife works as an English teacher, and we have one daughter named Doğa (meaning nature) and one son named Deniz (meaning sea). Our daughter attends a secondary school in Aydın now, but she visits us often, whenever she gets an opportunity to.
How do you spend your free time?
To be honest, after the elections, I can’t find enough time for myself and my family. Yes, I know, I have to find a solution, I should spend more time with my family.
You know, our Fethiyespor soccer team and Lokman Hekim Fethiye basketball team are fighting hard to be successful this season. If our basketball team can earn success, we can watch teams such as Efes, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş in Fethiye in 2020. So, I am trying to be in the stadium and sports saloon at the weekends to support our teams.
Before the elections, when I had some free time, I used to play volleyball and basketball. As a good Fenerbahçe fan, I was trying to follow Fenerbahçe games. But nowadays, believe me, it is so hard for me to find free time!
Who do you admire the most and why, either in your political career or otherwise?
Five times Prime Minister of Turkey, Bülent Ecevit, was a charismatic yet controversial figure whose keen sense of survival sustained him through nearly 50 years of Turkey’s turbulent political life. For most of his career, he was a leftist and a nationalist.
I admire Ecevit because he never abused his power and he never “stole” the State’s money, which is a common thing done by the some “rightist” parties. He was also modest and humble in his lifestyle, not interested in luxury. As time passed and, as I compared him with governments both before and after him, I realised that he was one of the most significant governments to have ruled Turkey.
If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?
If I could get the chances, it could be so nice to live during Atatürk’s period, and it would be fantastic to be a close friend of his. He was a great leader, not just for us, but for everybody, even his enemies.
What motivated you to pursue a political career?
As the son of a farming family, I used to live under challenging conditions. But I always wanted the best for my family, for my social environment, for my town and for my country. So I am thinking to be a politician and to use the “power” for social benefits is one of the easiest ways to be helpful to the people.
Can you tell us about your political career to date? What do you feel most proud of?
Before Fethiye, I was Mayor in Kumluova between 2009 – 2014. During this period, we built a primary school, a secondary school and a high school through donations. Now Kumluova has some very high quality schools, and I am very proud of that.
What are your key agenda points for 2020 as the Mayor of Fethiye?
We will continue our work on the Fethiye brand as a global resort brand; continue to popularise Fethiye both inside and outside of the country. We plan to expand tourism, hospitality, professionalism, service quality and service sector to improve the overall quality of tourism services.
Fethiye is a Paradise on earth, with a unique natural and historical heritage. We are working to preserve the environment so that guests can enjoy the natural wealth of Fethiye. We will protect the lands and forests of Fethiye and continue our work in this direction.
However, Fethiye is not only sea and sun. We have Babadağ, historical beauties, such as ancient cities like Cadianda, and extraordinary entertainment facilities within the city. It is a pity for “all inclusive” visitors, who return from Fethiye without seeing what Fethiye has to offer. You can swim in the sea here almost 8 – 9 months of the year when it is freezing in continental Europe and the UK.
We have to find a way to keep all our hotels open twelve months of the year. I want to establish Fethiye as one of the most important cities in terms of health tourism. A British citizen who undergoes heart surgery in London cannot walk in the open air in minus degree temperatures. Cancer sufferers can make their struggle against this disease more successful in the soft climate of our town. Our hotels may serve such patients; warm winter months and the flat city location can contribute to a better quality of life for these people.
We could open our hotels as student hostels and dormitories to attract young people to Fethiye to study.
Retired people of Europe, particularly the UK, have already come and, currently, we have more than 6,600 foreign citizens who have settled here in Fethiye. They came even before we invited them. Imagine how it will be if we succeeded to attract students, patients and sportspeople to our city; to increase our tourism season to twelve months of the year.
During my election campaign, these were the things that I told people; they trusted me, and so they elected me.
If there was one thing you could change about Fethiye today, what would it be?
I am happy to live here, it doesn’t matter if I am a Mayor or not. To be a part of Fethiye is enough for me. But if I could be a magician, I could want to clean the Bay in one night. But no worries, me and our experts we are working on it. We hope we will see a clean Bay soon.
Fethiye is a beautiful city with a unique historical heritage and a luxurious, unique nature. We are working to make people of different nations and religions, living in Fethiye, feel calm and safe.
Our doors are always open to our people, all of the time, and we will never stop this connection. In the future, both for our Turkish and foreign friends, we will work day and night for their happy life in this beautiful city.
According to the election results, the mayor should not focus on politics but should serve the people. Together with Muğla, we will continue our work to improve the lives of the people who live in Fethiye. Regardless of our political preferences, we should unite to ensure a better life in our region. We will continue to work together and will be guided by such principles.
Dear Melissa, I bring you my sincere gratitude for this wonderful interview and, through you, I convey my greetings to all the citizens of Fethiye and the people who come to us in Fethiye on their vacations.