Colette Flesch, now second-term mayor of the European city of Luxembourg, knew what she was doing when she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts as an undergraduate. She majored in political science. "I had very clear ideas about my future," she recalls. And as she revisited her alma mater recently, she had already achieved her college ideals and then some.
In addition to being the first woman mayor in Luxembourg's 1,000-year history , Mayor Flesch is a member of the Parliament of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Secretary General of Luxembourg's Democratic Party, and delegate to the 198 -member European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Each position, says the mayor, is a political education of a diffirent kind.
"Local politics involves the politician in so many different facets of policymaking," she explains. "As mayor, i go from traffic problems to music schools to slaughterhouses to sewers." Most important in her work as mayor, she says, is the human element involved.
"Working on the city level keeps you close to other human beings," she says. "There is a danger in policymakers who can forget the human element."
However, while shaping policy for the duchy's capital city, Mayor Flesch must watch broader national concerns from her seat in the national parliament. At the same time, her work in the european Parliament involves her in global issues such as aid for developing nations, a particular concern of hers.
World affairs have always been important in colette Flesch's life. World War II bereft her of her father and forced her and her mother to flee Luxembourg for France, where they lived until the war's end.
In high school she spent a year as a foreign exchange student living with an American family in Vermont. "America had always fascinated me because international affairs had always fascinated me, and what America does has such an impact on the rest of the world," explains Miss Flesch.
After high school she returned to the US on a two-year scholarship at Wellesley and remained after graduation in 1960 to pick up two more degrees at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
On returning to Europe, Miss flesch became a staff member of the European Economic community (EEC) in Brussels, specializing in agricultural concern. Seeing European countries work together has long been the keystone to Miss Flesch's vision of Europe's future.
"I was placed in agriculture only by accident," she recalls. "But it was the best experience i could have had. That was an area in which a really coherent policy was emerging, and it was exciting to have a part in shaping it, to feel that I was helping in the effort towards an integrated Europe."
It was after this experience with the EEC that Flesch became involved with local politics and found herself as her party's leading vote getter in Luxembourg's 1970 city council elections, thus qualifying her for mayor, an office she said she never expected or even wished to hold, although now she says , "I love it!"
As a woman, Colette Flesch is part of a tiny but growing minority in European politics. "i deal almost entirely with men," she says. "But I have never felt any animosity from my colleagues." However, Mayor Flesch admits, she felt pressured to work twice as hard during her first few years as mayor, "because if there had been criticism, it would have been sharp."