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Sunday, 16 February 2014

France's longest serving mayors finally call it a day

It's the kind of story that would (if it hasn't already) feature in the lunchtime "let's feel good about France" show anchored by Jean-Pierre Pernaut: both of the country's longest-serving mayors will step down at next month's local elections.

No, this piece isn't about Marseille's Jean-Claude Gaudin who has been in the job for the past 18 years and is seeking re-election for a fourth term.

Incidentally, some bright spark at the local online news site Marsactu came up with the statistic that, should Gaudin win again in March, he would have accumulated 120 years worth of political mandates (and the salaries and benefits that go along with them) by 2017, the year when the non-cumul de mandats law is (if ratified by the Conseil constitutionnel) due to come into force.

Anyway, Gaudin's 18 years in the top job in Marseille (almost) pale into insignificance when compared to the time Arthur Richier has spent as mayor of the village of Faucon du Caire in the département of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

The 92-year-old (yes, you read correctly) has been mayor of the village (current population of 59) since...deep breath...1947.

Arthur Richier (screenshot France 3 report)

Richier has held 11 consecutive mandates for a total of 66 years in office.

But he has decided not to stand again in the elections in March, preferring instead to hand over to someone younger.

"If someone isn't able to put a full list together, I'll accept a position on the council," he said.

"But I'm not looking to stand for the post of mayor again."

Hang about though.

The title is in the plural - and Richier is only "one" of the country's longest serving mayors.

What about the other?

Over in the village of La Bastide-de-Bousignac in the département of Ariège (population 339)
Roger Sénié has been mayor for exactly the same length of time but unlike Richier isn't quite ready to hand in his sash yet.

Or at least he wasn't when interviewed last December when he insisted he wanted to stand for a 12th term in office.

Portrait du doyen des candidats aux élections... par BFMTV

But since then, Sénié too has had time to reflect and probably realising that his 61-year-old son, who is also currently on the council, wasn't willing to "step into his shoes" listened to reason.

"I've only recently taken the decision not to stand," he said.

"I'll be 94 in a few months and family and close friends have convinced me it's time to stop."

Roger Sénié (screenshot BFM TV)

M. Gaudin in Marseille (and probably many others of France's 36,000 mayors), are you taking note?

You might only be 75 but don't you think perhaps...?

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