Fast Confession – Mayor of Řeporyje Pavel Novotný: Without my wife and two little girls at home, I’d be nothing
Pavel Novotný, son of famous comedian Petr Novotný, is, among other things, well known for his sharp tongue. He always has a swear word or a criticism ready and media scandals or legal complaints don’t seem to bother him. After leaving the world of tabloids, he switched to politics and became the mayor of Řeporyje, and his endeavours made this Prague district known to everyone. In his LP-life.com interview, the mayor opens up on difficulties of the mayor’s office or his family and he doesn’t even hold back from addressing the Vrbětice case, Prime Minister Babiš’s conflict of interest or the upcoming elections.
You are a very controversial figure right now. Thanks to you, everyone in Prague, if not everyone in the Czech Republic knows, where Řeporyje is. You used to be the tabloid king, now you’re a mayor. What has changed inside of you, mentally?
I thought I had grown up with having children, but it's not true, I've only grown up now. I've definitely come to believe that you really mustn't think you know what you're getting into. Even if you're 100% sure. I really thought I had an idea of what the job of a borough mayor entailed after sitting on the council and being involved in public affairs for so many years. Both time-wise and mentally. Now I've finally grown up.
How did the people who sat here before you for so many years feel about it? Did they take you seriously?
A lot of people outside of Řeporyje wondered how I got elected. I'm someone else in Řeporyje, and I've always been someone else away from here. The locals know me. I've been here since I was a little kid, considered an idiot, but still here. I'm quite prominent in the opposition. And even the officials knew what to expect from me. There are good people here at the office. To this day, I don't really know how they feel about it, but it's been one big ride. I think for them, too. I brought madame Vlastička back from retirement, she's sitting here in the mailroom, where she's seen seven mayors. And she's really enjoying the ride with me. After a year, she'd say things like: "Come on, this is the seventh time the Czech News Agency has called in half an hour, what's going on?" I said, "I've declared war on the Russian Federation."To which she said, "You really are something else.“ (laughs)
What changes did you manage to make for the residents of Řeporyje?
You'd have to ask them. You know what the worst part is? That I get accused of just bragging, but I see nothing to criticize on myself. Řeporyje have changed the way of promoting its interests drastically. We are playing a great comedy here, as I have always done, using my reputation and past to advance our interests.
If you ask the citizens of Řeporyje what has changed here, they will tell you that I am a complete asshole, but that Řeporyje is thriving. Generally speaking, there is a plague in the whole country, Prague has not a single crown, and we are facing a deep social and economic crisis. But Řeporyje has four constructions underway, with a fifth one on the way. We're buying a bus for the fire department for two million crowns. I dare say I have a better crime clearance rate than the district police department. We keep the ground around the dumpsters clean. Řeporyje is doing very well and furthermore, if you look at the cadastral map, you will notice that Řeporyje keeps acquiring property. People see that I'm doing my job and that I don’t steal.
People just automatically see every politician as a Czech who steals. That's normal nowadays, they automatically assume that the office brings more benefices. If I have personally succeeded in anything, it is not to steal. I can show you the books; we have great audit results. But above all, I've always wanted to make Řeporyje cosmopolitan. This is a really nice job, it fulfils me, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
I have noticed, though, that you want to leave ODS.
I had a media round recently. But you know me, I'm a chess player, I played poker for a living for five years. If I want to make a media round that I'm leaving ODS, rest assured that I’m still going to give ODS quite a show. I am of course jilted, this is the first time my ambitions crashed, navigating the party is a complex thing. It's like show business for me, scheming, lying and swindling. I'm not the type to tuck my tail and leave somewhere better.
Despite everything I have publicly announced, I am still a member of ODS. For as many as 20 years. I can assure you I haven't said my last word. I don't want to say more, I don't want it to come out that I'm going to make a speech at the next congress in January. Let there be no doubt about that. I'm a keeper, I love this party, and I never run away from a fight.
How long is your term here?
Another year and a half. Party membership cards don’t matter here. I've got a good team here, I've got a sister on the council and so on. A lot of mayors pretend they don't know if they're going to continue, yet they want people's loyalty. I'm ambitious, nobody doubts that. After a year of ruminating on it, I decided to go to darkness therapy, to get myself locked in the dark. I’ve been through a lot, and I tell people who ask about it that I need to pause.
You've done so much work here, and now you want to leave it to someone else?
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't considering it. I had an offer from the private sector. But I love Řeporyje, so you know that I'll probably go for it. There's a terrible cliché about it, but outside of work, I have two kids, six and nine years old.
The job of a mayor is not covered by the labor code. It's one of the few jobs of that kind, a mayor really can do anything. I figured it's the bomb, I can go to work whenever I want. After two days, I found out that I'm really here all the time. This job is so time-consuming if you want to do it honestly. I've got a wife and two kids, I'd like to see them grow up. This worries me so much. I'm toying with the idea that perhaps I should be the mayor when my working years are done. I need to take some time to think about Řeporyje, which I love.
No, of course I'm running. I know that, we men are like that. And my campaign will be terribly simple. My posters will say, "fear not and steal not."
How long have you and your wife been together?
Twelve, thirteen years.
A lot has happened to you in that time. As you say, she has six haloes above her...
I chose well. I've ruined so many relationships and friendships with my tabloid work in my lifetime. I'd spent a long time looking for the right girl, and then I found a great, hard-working, modest girl from Moravia. We started living together and she felt like it was something crazy, that I was living this great adventure. You could see how happy she was to see me change my life fundamentally. She enjoyed my quitting the tabloids because it took away so much stress off me. When I got into the Mayor’s office, she felt like I was settling down. And then came Russia, China... But she's ready for anything. She really is a saint.
Has she ever told you it's been enough?
I'd be nothing without her. I see it all the time with celebrities, top politicians, how they all have shitty personal lives. I have this safe haven, if I didn't have a wife and two girls at home, the freedom it gives me, I'd be nothing.
Your girls can read now. Do they understand what you do or say, like the Russia thing?
Not always, but they always surprise me, shock me even. I didn't want them to find out a lot of things. I still don't understand how they found out I was under police protection. But they're awfully proud of daddy for being mayor. They liked it best when they found out I was the „education authority“ of the local school where my mother teaches. Laura was completely shocked when I started making big changes there. She saw that I was stressed and asked me what was going on at the school. I told her that I had certain troubles with the headmistress, and I had to say goodbye to her. The next day I went to see her, and Laura's jaw just dropped completely, because after her mommy and daddy, the principal is the most powerful "monster" she knows.
In the chess club, kids somehow learned what an education authority is. That it's Laura's daddy and that he can shut down the school if he wants to. The kids abetted her and she came to me, telling me to shut down the school, that I could do it. I said I could, but I wouldn't do it. So then she came up with a compromise suggestion that well, I don't have to close the school, but if I could at least make it so that those who don't want to get up in the morning don't have to. They're such sweethearts.
What is your opinion of the last year, on how the government has acted?
I'm at this stage where I'm just saying it's the will of the people. We elect our representatives to make decisions for us, and not just in the simple things. Even though the majority of this nation vote for these two morons, a man is elected to govern us through thick and thin. I have come to realize, regarding COVID as well, that a serious threat comes not in weeks or months, but in hours. A meteor is approaching. War breaks out. Destruction happens within hours. And this country is run by a babbling psychopath and the Commander of the Armed forces is a senile old geezer. I wouldn't wish this nation to have its decision made for by these people they have chosen in worse situations than we’re having now. We have to respect that, but I'm afraid it's far from over.
What do you think there’s yet to come?
Well, apart from the fact that we have a deep economic and social crisis afoot, which is clear, there’s also what I call the „Andrej Babiš underestimation disease“ on the rise again. I would like to say that in August and September people are going to witness the biggest political marketing show in the history of political marketing in our country. In mid-August, Andrej Babiš will be done with vaccination, he will promise to increase pensions, he’ll go all in. He has the best marketers in the country, unlimited resources to use. He will put on such a show that more than a fifth of the nation will get up of their butts and throw it to him again. They'll give him their vote. We may yet be surprised at what's to come. That simply scares me, because I feel that there is a larceny of the state going on live, using the very state apparatus. But such is the will of the people.
I was looking forward to the elections, but now I don't know who to vote for.
The main thing is not to vote for populists and extremists. I have already explained Andrej Babiš, my coalition Spolu has its problems as well, and then there is the other coalition of the Pirate party and STAN. Ivan Bartoš, whatever he is, is the best talking politician on TV in our country, and the "Pirates" are a likeable party. This coalition will win the elections here, we will land third, but we will be in a great position because we’ll be able to choose. You're obviously giving it to the Pirates.
What’s your take on the Vrbětice and Hamáček case?
It’s fading out already. What we know about the Vrbětice case today is far from the deepest sewers‘ bottom that’s yet to come to light. You'll be shocked at what these people have been doing those days. I'm just laughing about it now. But the scariest part is not that it’s going to happen, because it certainly is going to happen. The scariest part is that we are the only country in Europe, perhaps outside of Belarus, that is under attack by a hostile power, and its president is acting in the interests of that foreign power.
Is that a treason?
I am convinced of it. Constantly, today and every day of my life I keep verifying my controversial statement that, although death is a terrible thing, and God forbid that the Prime Minister or the President should die, it would technically be in the interests of the Czech Republic. But I keep telling myself that we live in the best possible place in the world and my children are healthy. It's all the will of the people, and it should be respected, just as the people should respect the mayor that the people of Řeporyje have elected. Well, so we elected a Slovakian thieving informer. Such is the will of the people.
You have a lot of pictures of celebrities on your walls, I see Vlaďka Erbová for example... Don't you miss the tabloids?
No, I don't.
I don’t mean the stress, but, like, the parties?
Look, I never really left the tabloids. It's like the Internal Affairs, I still do crisis communication and mediation. I also feel like I've never been more of a journalist than I am now. It’s something else that I miss. Sometimes I wish I was a normal journalist. I don't miss the tabloids, but I do miss journalism. Now I've taken teaching media studies in primary school, I'm enjoying that.
Do the kids listen to you? Are they interested?
They are. But it's the adults who need media education, not the kids. I realize the power of the media. When I teach about the tabloids, I say they're just five minutes of entertainment, but I know from my own experience that in our society they're used for influencing public opinion. Media wield such a great power that we all need media education.
Where do you stand with Kateřina Kristelová now?
We're actually in court now, she's suing me. She sued three publishing houses and me for ruining her career. My lawyer didn't understand what that was at first. Kristelová's "career" is an oxymoron. I'd like to just say one thing. Such as with Marek Vít, I think of everyone around Kateřina Kristelová as victims. I've matured so much lately that I even think of Řepka as a victim. He needs to be saved.
How’s your dad doing?
He's fine. He's very seriously ill, but on the other hand, he's better than he looks. Last January, we thought it was over. Compared to that, it's great now. He has many ailments, he can't undergo surgery anymore, but he eats, goes for walks, is surrounded by his grandchildren. And what makes me happy is that he's happy. It's better than it looks. It's the way I want it, I have to protect him. Since his stroke in 2016, not a single tabloid journalist has called our mother, no one has photographed them. It's not because I'm one of them, it's just that I needed to make a deal with the tabloids. Which I did, and I still do. I'm protecting him and our whole family.