Urbi et provincia
King’s Commissioner of South Holland Jaap Smit gave a guest lecture on 5 April. Relaxed, but no less convincing because of this, the former pastor discussed his work and the role of the province.
He once wanted to study medicine, but his first job was as pastor and Jaap Smit is now the King’s Commissioner of South Holland. What he wanted to say is that there is more than one road that leads to Rome. Literally, as during the Easter weekend he was a guest of the pope and stood just metres away from the head of the Catholic church listening “behind that huge curtain” to the urbi et orbi. Today, 5 April, he gave a guest lecture for Public Administration students. It is precisely this variety that makes his job so enjoyable.
The fact that Jaap Smit is used to speaking to a large audience as a former pastor was constantly apparent throughout the guest lecture. He talked about his career in a relaxed manner and the role of a King’s Commissioner, in between answering questions from the students. He made the comparison with being the middle brother in a family, who often mediates between the oldest and youngest child. The commissioner acts in the same way between the municipal authorities and central government. Smit primarily wants to be a person who brings people together though he sometimes has to act as a referee.
He emphasised that a commissioner also has a ceremonial role and that in this role you have to be able to console people in times of distress. He talked about the call for a selected mayor and commissioner. He is not in favour of this because it politicises the role and makes things more difficult for someone who is above the parties and is able to mediate. Furthermore, the days in which a commissioner was appointed in a back room are long gone. He simply applied for the role and was selected by the Provincial States.
By this point, the guest lecture had almost come to an end. He had been talking to the students for almost an hour and time flew by. Anyone who doubts the usefulness of a province or the usefulness of a King’s Commissioner will have to think again. This former pastor, who presented himself as the man in the middle, revealed himself to be a high priest of the province who clearly explained the use and need for his work in a charming manner in an “urbi et provincia”.