Antonio Muñoz, the manager who changed the exterior image of Seville | Spain

The Deputy Mayor of Seville and future first mayor, Antonio Muñoz, during a ceremony at the Palacio de Dueñas in Seville, on November 11.
The Deputy Mayor of Seville and future first mayor, Antonio Muñoz, during a ceremony at the Palacio de Dueñas in Seville, on November 11.Joaquin Corchero (Europa Press)

“Seville has been waking up for a few years and it is thanks to Antonio Muñoz. He denied me the license to open a bar, but it made me change my mind ”. This is what the head of a restaurant in the Los Remedios neighborhood of the Andalusian capital affirms, after commenting to a waiter that it is almost certain that the delegate of Urban Habitat, Culture and Tourism of the Seville City Council will be the new mayor. His appointment as Juan Espadas’s successor was an open secret, which Muñoz himself no longer denied in all the weeks in which the current councilor, Juan Espadas, has been extending his relief. Since the general secretary of the PSOE of Andalusia confirmed that his intention was to leave the mayor’s office to focus on recovering the Junta de Andalucía, possible successors began to emerge and the name of Muñoz is the one that has been established above other options despite of his tenuous political profile.

Friends, collaborators, representatives of the three sectors in which he has carried out his work in the City Council in the seven years of Espadas’ mandate and many of the councilors in the opposition agree that Muñoz, above all, is a good manager, who knows listen and who has a cosmopolitan vision of Seville. “This is vertigo for him, because this is not his career, his career is management, that is his vocation,” says journalist Mercedes de Pablos, who shared a bench with Muñoz as a councilor in the early years of Espadas as leader of the opposition to the municipal government of Juan Ignacio Zoido. Muñoz himself has resisted entering the pools, although his public exposure has grown in recent months.

“And [Alfredo Sánchez] Monteseirín is responsible for the transformation of Seville inward with the pedestrianization, Muñoz has executed the transformation outward, the vision of the local to the global of Espadas “, explains Josu Gómez Barrutia, advisor in Spain of The Future Society, a cabinet expert born at Harvard Kennedy School, and specialist in innovation. Muñoz has been the main architect of placing Seville on the European and world map as a tourist destination through a bold policy of positioning abroad to, in addition to visitors, attract investment. “We are already the capital of southern Spain, but we want to be the metropolis of southern Europe. We wanted to be ambitious and get rid of the complexes “, he pointed out to this newspaper a few years ago.

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Seville witnessed the successful commitment to the economic growth of Malaga, based on a tourism model that has culture as a great complement to the sun and the beach, while the capital of the autonomous community lacked a plan for the future. That inertia and the comparison, in which the capital was losing, have weighed like a slab among Sevillians. To a large extent, Muñoz has been responsible for designing a strategy that has gone through expanding the air connections of the Seville capital airport to guarantee not only the arrival of tourists, but also those attending large conventions and international events that, in addition to positioning Seville, beyond its festivals and traditions, has managed to attract millionaire investments for the city.

Muñoz understood the transformative potential of tourism during his childhood in Malaga, where he saw the Costa del Sol develop. The premature death of his mother forced the family to return to La Rinconada, the Sevillian municipality where he was born in 1959. “That was a shock for him and determined him to study Economics and Business to be able to work in the tourism sector. That has been the area in which he is a true professional, ”says De Pablos.

The bulk of his political career has been developed as general director of Tourism Planning and Management at the Junta de Andalucía, director of Tourism and the Treasury area in the Seville Provincial Council and as CEO and director of the Economy and Tourism area in the Seville City Council. Muñoz joined the PSOE in 1983 and is part of the Agrupación Centro de Sevilla.

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His profile, more technical than political, and his detachment from the organic life of the party – very similar to that of Espadas before jumping to the forefront as secretary general of the PSOE-A – may weigh when it comes to consolidating him as a candidate for mayor in the next municipal elections. Espadas has already stated that his intention, as general secretary of the Andalusian Socialists, is for him to attend. But, again, his management is his best asset to prop up that candidacy. His desire to simplify the procedures for building licenses, the commitment to responsible declarations or the unification of urban planning and environment files to speed up concessions has been applauded by businessmen and professionals. “Much remains to be done, but everything that has been done in urban planning, in some cases pioneering initiatives has been due to Antonio’s efforts,” acknowledges the dean of the Seville College of Architects, Cristina Murillo.

Reconciling the ‘two Sevillas’

“It has a modern vision aligned with the avant-garde of what happens in other European capitals”, affirms a close collaborator within the Urban Planning area. That spirit that his environment considers cosmopolitan, progressive and innovative has made him absent from what many Sevillians call the “eternal Seville”, that more traditional part of the city, attached to brotherhood and religious acts in general. “Antonio is a secularist and is in favor of a close collaboration with the brotherhoods because they are part of the social fabric that backs the city, but he will never make the speech of a bishop, but rather that of a mayor or mayor; He is not going to occupy a role that does not correspond to him, ”says De Pablos.

Muñoz could have lived in any other place, but he chose Seville because he is passionate about the city, say several of those who know him. He usually walks everywhere and enjoys the Sevillian life, especially the one that takes place in the cultural and academic sphere and the one that bustles in the Alameda de Hércules area, where he lives.

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Reserved and shy – his friends admit that it took them a long time to find out that he was homosexual, although he does not hide it and goes with his partner to official events – those who treat him also highlight his love for his family – especially his sister and nephews – and its closeness, a capacity to empathize that will serve to convince skeptics that it is not too modern for the city.

During this time, Muñoz has taken charge of three of the most relevant portfolios in the city: Tourism, Urban Planning and Culture, and this diversification of functions has been able to limit his action in the latter area. “His spirit and sensitivity have made him a benchmark in the field of Culture, but the fact of having to make it compatible with other areas has been able to slow down his influence,” acknowledges Ricardo Iniesta, founder and director of the Atalaya theater group. An appreciation that Castillo shares from an urban point of view. “Although he has gaps in all three areas, he has put all three to work in an acceptable way, which shows his capacity for organization and leadership,” says a representative of the opposition who prefers to remain anonymous.

“Muñoz has a strategic vision in the medium and long term,” emphasizes Gómez Urrutia. Now he has the opportunity to start it, although, as businessmen, professionals and members of the opposition remind him, there are still great pending issues such as the connection between the Santa Justa station and the airport, the tunnels of the S-40 (the ring road outermost part of the city), or the metro, measures for which Muñoz’s negotiating spirit will have to be tested with both the Junta de Andalucía and the central government. The entrenched poverty of neighborhoods like Amate, Los Pajaritos and Las Tres Mil Viviendas, the poorest in Spain, is another great pending issue, where Muñoz will also have to demonstrate his management skills.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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