I am loving this and I am so grateful for being able to be doing this. My guest for today’s lunch is Patrick Meehan. He is the ex-president of the community “Edificio Acapulco” in Los Boliches and as I learn later on during our conversation, he is willing to stand up for the job again.
We had not agreed on an exact venue, Patrick had suggested we meet at Plaza de la Hispanidad where there are numerous restaurants to choose from, so with no specific place to go to before the meeting time, I arrange to arrive just before 2pm at the rendevouz place. As I drive down towards our meeting place, I remember that it is Tuesday and usually there is a street market nearby (The famous Fuengirola, Tuesday market), which makes parking a nightmare in that area. I hope that I will be lucky to find a parking spot and while rattling my brain and thinking where would be the nearest paid parking to drive into, I spot a free slot 50 metres from our meeting place.
Patrick is already there waiting for me, a quick greeting and I ask where he would suggest we should head for. He says with a gleam in his eyes “There is a type of food I have not had for years and that he would love to go to the Chinese”. Apparently his wife does not like Chinese food and ever since he has come back from Thailand he has not had the opportunity to have Chinese or Thai food.
The weather is very pleasant and we sit at the only available table outside. Patrick has just finished writing a book on the history of Fuengirola, titled “Fuengirola revisited, a journey through time in 10 square kilometres of southern Spain”. He asks if I managed to read it and I admit that I can come up with a bunch of excuses but the truth is I haven’t started reading it, even though it is a subject close to my heart. It is the town where I have started and sold one of my businesses and it is the town where I have pretty much grown up.
The waiter is asking for our orders. Looking at the menu, he spots the Thai spring roll for starters, I order dumpling with crispy Peking duck and he opts to have the same for our main dish. The waiter suggests it might be too much to order two, we think for a few seconds and I say that we will order two and if there is any leftover I will take it home.
Patrick is mindful not to talk too much about the book but I am equally interested to know more. He tells me how this has been an important location to settle for three thousand years and shaped by terrain and often tragic history. Its modern growth was forged in the horror of life under a dictatorship and has since grown into a modern well run town that has transcended its tragic past. People from many nations have settled here, we are all foreign residents connected by living here.
Talking about being connected I am surprised we had not met earlier in life. Patrick has a degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the University of Kent. He finished his studies in 1994 (same year as I finished my Bachelor’s degree in UK). His first job was with Cityscape Internet Services (CIS) and by the time it was taken over by Demon Internet, Patrick was the managing director of CIS. (In between 1997 and 2000, I used to sell Deamon internet connections to Iran, albeit only a small number of connections). In 2000 he sold all his shares and came to Spain, (In 2000, I sold up all my shares and business in Iran and I came back to Spain. I remember first seeing Patrick in 2001 in one of the Spantel’s offices. He helped setup the Spansurf ISP arm and I worked closely for several years as a reseller with Spansurf until they collapsed. I never asked Patrick why, but from my point of view Spansurf was reselling the internet from another provider and at some point the provider failed them, they had no control over it and I moved all my clients over to another provider. I am diverging but I think it is just a shame that we never met back in those years. If I remember correctly we first met at one of Malaga Business Mind events in 2014, yet we were so close in work and line of business all this time.
In between 2005 and 2009 Patrick took a job in Dubai and September 2009 he went to Thailand for 1 year. He has been back in Spain ever since.
When Patrick was elected the president of his community, the community had a debt of over €20K, the roof was leaking, the garage floor had not been swept for several years and the community water bill had not been paid for in 4 years. As he had the time and the expertise, he set to work. Over the years he managed to change the community administration that had practically brought the community to its knees. He created a plan to make routine maintenance and fix all the structural problems in the building and he created an excel sheet where every expenditure was and is accounted for until today.
I press him to give me an advice for other presidents and he says when he first started he met with a lawyer, and the lawyer told him make sure you always remind your administrator that he works for you / the community and on the same token he thanks me for having introduced him to his new administrator, he is very happy with them.
His advice to Administrators “Be totally transparent, be clear” he refers back to his excel sheets and comments that he can prove with his excel sheet that not even one penny has gone missing. Looking back on the years he was president, he mentions that it is a thankless job but there are always people out there that can see the good work you have done and show their appreciation. Unfortunately this is not always the case and even with the best intentions he says that one of his friends died possibly or at least partially exasperated from all the related stress caused by all the issues and disagreements that you get when you are a president. This however is not a deterrent for Patrick, he says he has a vested interest in the community and even if it is to protect his own investment, he is willing to stand again to make sure that the community keeps running in good order.
We have both cleared all our plates and there is nothing left of the two crispy ducks, except for one dumpling. We both agree that it was delicious and he adds that he must go for a long walk to burn off the extra calories. Patrick and I have a lot in common; he worked for 3 months as a cameraman for a presentation skills company while he was in Dubai, and learned the skills of accomplished Toastmasters. We talk a bit more about my Toastmasters club and Toastmasters in our area, the structure, the competitions and so on. Our conversation diverges constantly, we talk about many related subjects such as how blockchain can be used and implemented for community accounts and Bitcoin and the future of Urbytus. I would love to carry on talking but he has another appointment to go to.
Over the past years I have met many presidents and for the past few weeks I have interviewed three. It is interesting to see how each one of these presidents from very diverse background agree on a few common things: “Transparency, The Administration company being a service provider and good communication”.
If you want to find out more about Patrick’s book visit the website www.fuengirolarevisited.com and don’t forget that you are also cordially invited to have lunch with The Presidents Club, click here to book https://thepresidentsclub.urbytus.com/