As of Friday Johnny Araya is no longer the mayor of San José, leaving the mayoral chair he has occupied for the last 22 years, headed for the presidential chair in Zapote.
Known as the “eternal” mayor, Araya will now begin his role as presidential candidate for the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) in the February 2014 presidential elections.
Moments after his last press conference as mayor, Araya shared hugs and farewell kisses with workers at the José Figueres Ferrer, the official name of San José municipal building. Many told the outgoing mayor, “see you in Zapote”.
In his final act of mayor, Araya handed the mayoral power to Sandra Garcia, first deputy mayor, in an official transfer of power ceremony.
During his more than two decades heading Costa Rica’s largest municipal government, Araya was responsible for a number of cultural programs, instituted traffic management, a solid waste management program and an rescued urban spaces.
The outgoing Araya noted that in the last years he no longer needed to go with bodyguards in neighbourhoods that were “miserable” at the beginning of his administration, including areas like Cristo Rey, Sagrada Familia and San Sebastian.
Araya will not focus on national issues like security and economic growth. One of the challenges is to promote renewals of the PLN political party. “We need a renewal. I am not the most visible face of renewal for the party”, said the now presidential candidate.