COrnelia Weigand, as the newly elected district administrator in the Ahrweiler district, which was badly hit by the flood, faces a major task. She has “clear respect for her,” Weigand told the FAZ. On Sunday, the former mayor of the Altenahr municipality won the first ballot with 50.2 percent of the votes against the CDU candidate Horst Gies (28.2 percent).
The fact that there was no runoff between Gies and Weigand surprised the newly elected district administrator herself, who is non-party and supported by the Greens. Gies had recently represented the former district administrator Jürgen Pföhler (CDU) in his function as first deputy.
In the fall, he retired at his own request due to being unable to work. The public prosecutor’s office is investigating Pföhler on suspicion of negligent homicide and bodily harm through omission. The population had been warned much too late. Weigand had already appealed to the district office in the afternoon to trigger the disaster. Last but not least, this circumstance may have helped her to win the election.
Letter to Merkel
Likewise, people will have been convinced by their appearance in the crisis. Since the disaster, Weigand has campaigned nationwide for the interests of the Ahr Valley. Almost three weeks after the flood, she wrote an open letter to the then Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer (SPD). She called for a special representative at federal level for the reconstruction of the Ahr Valley. It was a cry for help. The office was not created.
When Merkel visited the Ahr Valley in September, the mayor focused on the European dimension of the flood disaster. The question is how to live safely on the rivers in the future. Merkel wanted to “reintroduce the idea of bringing together the best ideas and experts from Europe” in Europe, as she said at the time. In the new office, Weigand wants to continue to work to “think outside the box”.
The two women have one thing in common: both are scientists. Anyone who met the biologist Weigand shortly after the flood in her makeshift office in the dining room of a hotel experienced a matter-of-fact, rational crisis manager. Weigand, who is 50 years old, has been running the business in the town hall of the municipality of Altenahr since 2019, around 11,000 citizens live there.
Weigand was born on Sylt and came to Bonn as a child, where she also studied. She worked for a long time in the private sector, including in a medical technology company. Most recently she worked in the public service in Bonn. Nine years ago she moved to the Ahr Valley “because of love”. And stayed.