Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis

Legacy in Leadership

Interviewing and writing about the Mayor of Cape Town is no small task, especially when the individual is as influential as Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. He’s not only renowned and smart, but he’s also a really nice guy!

After a lot of schedule-checking and back and forth with his team, we were stoked when we got the green light to go ahead with the interview and photoshoot.

I must admit, my imagination ran wild with expectations: vans with blacked-out windows, burly bodyguards in sunglasses, and an entourage of formally dressed, folder-holding, cell phone-wielding assistants bombarding him with questions. Reality, however, was quite the opposite (to my relief). Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis is incredibly down-to-earth and approachable, fully engaged in everything he commits to, and his team were very casual and pleasant to be around.

We met up with Mayor Geordin at the picturesque Klein Roosboom wine farm where he introduced us to his pup, Freddie. Freddie was dressed in a very adorable cheetah print shirt and immediately stole the show with his spritely personality. The mayor, being the best of sports, also decided to dress for the occasion in a dog-print button down. These are the tell-tale signs of a great shoot and of an even greater cover model. We were united by our shared purpose and we couldn’t have been happier to meet the man leading Cape Town into a promising future.

Balancing the demands of being the Mayor of Cape Town with a deep-seated commitment to animal welfare is a delicate art that Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has mastered over the years. Growing up in a household that always had pets, he learned early on that they can bring a lot of joy into one’s life. “Animals have always been a part of my life,” he reflects. “Their presence brings a sense of joy and companionship that’s unparalleled.” He currently also shares his home with three K9’s who are spoiled with love and affection. While Freddie is a purebred pup, his siblings are both rescues. Mila who is about 13 years old and Duke who is 10 years of age were both rescued from local shelters. They share their lives as beloved companion animals of the Hill-Lewis household.

Mayor Geordin’s dedication to animal welfare is evident in both his personal and professional life. He continues to tell us about his childhood with pets and how they’ve impacted his life. This love isn’t just a personal trait—it’s a family tradition. “I’ve always been an animal lover and have had dogs my whole life. My wife would have ten dogs if she could, and my in-laws are passionate animal welfare volunteers in various shelters around the city. So, it runs in the family now!”

But it doesn’t just stop with the immediate family. The City of Cape Town is a family affair as well. “From the perspective of the City of Cape Town, I’ve worked in numerous areas in Cape Town for years and have seen the plight of so many animals in need of care. Various strong and outspoken animal activists have convinced me over the years of the benefit of spending public money on, for example, mass sterilisation programmes. Over time, the City of Cape Town has become a big supporter of animal welfare causes.”

Animals are known for their therapeutic benefits, and Mayor Geordin’s experiences with his pets have been no different.

Although he doesn’t recall a specific incident, the unconditional love his dogs have provided during times of stress has always been reaffirming and heart-warming. His shelter special, Lulu, and his border collie, Jessie, were particularly wonderful companions while growing up and whom he still misses dearly.

For individuals or families considering bringing a pet into their lives for the first time, Mayor Geordin emphasises the importance of being prepared for a lifelong commitment. “Make sure you have a support structure at home if you’re not able to spend as much time as you’d like with your dogs,” he advises. “They can bring so much joy to your home, so it is definitely a worthy choice to become a dog parent.”

Mayor Geordin speaks from experience when he gives this advice. “Being the Mayor of Cape Town demands a lot of time attending to the work of improving our city, listening to what residents need in their communities and making sure we continue to head in the right direction. I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife and daughter who dote on our three dogs at home and make sure they are happy and loved.” Dogs, being social beings, need to be close to their owners and family, making it crucial to ensure they are well-cared for, even during busy times.

Addressing animal welfare issues in a city as large as Cape Town, presents significant challenges. The sheer scale of the problem can be overwhelming, especially with limited municipal resources. Since animal welfare is not specifically within the city’s legal mandate, creative solutions are necessary. The City of Cape Town uses its grant-in-aid process and the Mayoral Fund to support animal welfare organisations. This includes a long-standing partnership with the SPCA for animal sterilisation programs.

Working with organisations such as the Cape Animal Welfare Forum (CAWF), the city tackles issues like stray animal populations and adoptions. Animals are impounded in certain circumstances, including involvement in attacks, being deemed strays, or roaming in dangerous areas. The burden on both the City’s Animal Control Unit and welfare organisations is immense, but the collaboration helps address these challenges. The City’s Health Department also funds mass sterilisation programs, a critical component of controlling stray animal populations.

” Make sure you have a support structure at home if you’re not able to spend as much time as you’d like with your dogs.

Education and awareness are key components of the City’s approach to responsible pet ownership. The annual mass animal sterilisation campaign, conducted by CAWF on behalf of the City, includes education on responsible pet ownership and the importance of pet sterilisation. Additionally, the City’s Environmental Health Practitioners and the Law Enforcement Animal Control Unit conduct ongoing education and awareness initiatives in communities.

Enforcing animal welfare laws and regulations is another critical aspect of the City’s efforts. The City’s Animal Control Unit, part of Law Enforcement, enforces the Animal Keeping By-law, which includes impounding animals and fining residents who are in contravention of the by-law. The recent incident involving a livestock carrier in Cape Town harbour, where animals were held in horrifying conditions, highlighted the City’s collaborative efforts with the SPCA and port authorities, despite the City not having specific enforcement mandates within the port.

In his two years as Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis has become a recognisable and passionate advocate for animal welfare. In the last two years the Mayor has allocated more than R5.5 million toward the organisations in Cape Town that work with assisting animals in distress. His dedication to improving the lives of both the city’s human and animal residents is evident in his policies and initiatives. Whether addressing unemployment, crime, public transport, or animal welfare, Mayor Geordin’s commitment to excellence and his belief in Cape Town’s potential to set global standards shine through in all his endeavours.

While there is still so much more we would like to ask the Mayor, there simply isn’t enough space in this article. However, we were assured that should we have any further questions, his open door policy extends to all who are keen to work with the City toward a better future. Thank you to everyone involved in this shoot, especially Freddie, who was quite exhausted afterwards. We appreciate your hard work!

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