Less than a month ago, Benahavís became one of the first towns of the Costa del Sol to host a PGA European Tour tournament, bringing together 72 participants from all over Europe, as well as countless tourists and residents who visited the town to be part of the event. Leading this triumph was a man who, despite his age, is certainly no novice. Charismatic, humble and committed, the Mayor of Benahavís, José Antonio Mena, spent an afternoon in La Zagaleta to talk about his work and his passions.
Benahavís is one of the towns with the highest per capita income in Spain, having only 5,000 inhabitants, 60% whom are foreigners. What is it about Benahavís that seduces both major celebrities from around the world and everyday working people? How do you lead a town as special and diverse as this?
There are currently more than 5,000 officially registered residents in Benahavís, 62% of which are foreign, since the number of registrations has increased during this term of office. Having said that, I can now answer your question: The attraction to Benahavís lies not only in its most renowned aspects such as its good restaurants, the golf, the landscapes and its high-class hotels, but also in the charm and privacy of its urbanisations, allowing important celebrities to remain practically anonymous during their stay here. This, in turn, creates a series of service requirements that create jobs. But another of its attractions is the friendliness and courtesy extended by the people of this town to its visitors, which makes life together here much better for everyone.
Before you became the Mayor, you said that your idea for Benahavís was to “renew” the council. What are your main strategic lines and future projects for this town and for the municipal area whose council you preside over?
My main objectives are to bring the council closer to its citizens, which will require modernisation and development, bringing Benahavís both national and international recognition. One method of renewing, and the first measure to be implemented, is that of building a new council building that will meet the needs of the municipal area, given that the increase in the population level in recent years has been quite significant and given that the number of officially registered residents does not reflect the actual population figures. This new council facility, together with the implementation of new technologies, will make things easier for citizens when dealing with the administration, speeding up formalities and processes that can often be slow and inconvenient. The only way to spread the word about the Benahavís brand is to increase our presence at national and international forums and trade fairs, and by using the press to tell the world about our tourist attractions and the wealth of things that we have to offer, which are quite remarkable.
What does La Zagaleta represent for Benahavís?
La Zagaleta has a little bit of everything that Benahavís is: beautiful landscapes, golf courses, two in fact, a place where you can try other sports such as hunting or horse riding, an urbanisation of a very high standing where privacy itself is one of its attractions. In Benahavís we feel very proud to have La Zagaleta as a leading urbanisation on the international stage, and to have the name of Benahavís used in its advertisements and promotions to indicate its location, rather than the name of any other town nearby.
Following in your father’s footsteps, what has been your greatest challenge since you were appointed as Mayor?
The first and most important challenge for me was to impose my own style, in other words, I am José Antonio Mena Castilla and even though I had a great teacher and a good example in my father, I am a different person in many ways, with a different point of view and a different way of doing things.
We know that you come from a family with a political tradition, that you are the youngest Mayor that Benahavís has ever had and that you are a motorcycling fan, but what don’t we know about the Mayor of Benahavís yet?
The truth is that outside my role as Mayor, I am just a normal person. I am a lawyer and a practising labour law and social legislation specialist; I have a family, a wife and two daughters who are my priority in life; I’m a keen sports fan (jogging, skiing, golf and paddle tennis, and other sports); and just like everyone else, I like to get together with my friends, have a few laughs, tell some jokes...nothing special really.
La Zagaleta is a place that values personalised treatment and service excellence at all levels. What things do you value in your professional and personal life?
Of course, in my professional life I value personalised treatment and service excellence at all levels because of my profession. Apart from being the Mayor, I’m a lawyer and I have to deal with the courts and with other public and administrative bodies due to the work that I specialise in, so the treatment that I received from the administration, from the client that I’m advising or the client whose case I’m taking to court, is very important. It’s everything as a whole. If there is a level of excellence, then life is easier for everyone. In my personal life, it’s the closeness of the people that you deal with, loyalty and sincerity. I think they are the most important values.