Chief talk, Netflix boxsets and family life with Karime Hassan
Karime Hassan, family man, Netflix fan and Exeter’s top visionary. Karime is the Chief Executive of Exeter City Council, I had the privilege of meeting him a few months ago at a Visit Exeter event where he calmed my nerves before I took to the stage by telling me that I had nothing to worry about because “everyone in Exeter is lovely”.
Karime was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for us about Exeter, rugby and what he likes to do with his spare time. Who better to interview for my first People of Exeter feature than the man who has worked incredibly hard to shape Exeter City into what it is today.
What brought you to Exeter?
I came to Exeter in 1999 because of the job, to take up the post of head of planning services. My initial impression of the city was great but it was John Rigby, the Director of Economy & Development, that made the decision an easy one. John was so passionate and insistent that I could not say no. Even then the leadership of the Council had a clear vision for the city that I found compelling.
“Exeter was so different, unbelievably so, I have always found the residents respectful and polite, even when they disagreed.”
Where did you live before / how does it compare?
I was born in Cardiff’s dockland and until coming to Devon I had always lived in cities in South Wales and the East Midlands. I usually gravitated to inner city locations where I could walk to work, and was at the centre of things. I love people and the dynamism of places. Cities are great for social networks, sport and entertainment. However, when you are the Chief Planner in the city you live it can get difficult. Coming to Exeter was so different, unbelievably so, I have always found the residents respectful and polite, even when they disagreed, such as when we dealt with Princesshay. This had a big impact on me when I worked at East Devon and Exeter. I believe you give of your best when people appreciate what you do; I feed off the energy of people and I have loved working here. The quality of the environment is superb, we have great access to beautiful places.
You have a very serious and pressurised day job, but when you swap your suit for your civvies, what is life like at home?
During the week I usually have three or four evening functions to attend and I am usually so tired I just crash out and watch TV for an hour or two, I am currently working my way through House of Cards and Better Call Saul on Netflix. I love the movies but I don’t get to go as often as I would like, I have two young daughters so getting the right film to watch as a family isn’t that easy, but I can sometimes get to the Picture House when they are shopping. Weekends are usually spontaneous, if I am not watching rugby or football we go shopping and we tend to go somewhere alternating between cities and beach.
“That is what is so special here, you are spoilt for choice.”
What do you do in and around Exeter for fun?
I am fortunate that I work in the city centre and therefore I can get out in the week to visit shops and go to the gym – but less than I should. I enjoy having a coffee and some down time to read. I love food and we are now blessed with some great places to eat. The Queen Street Dining quarter has definitely lifted the offer. The big attractions for me are Exeter Chiefs at Sandy park, the Quayside, Corn Exchange for comedy and football at St James Park. I am fortunate that I do get to see an awful lot of things that are going on in the city from the Northcott Theatre (impressively turned around) through to RAMM. A highlight of the year is now TEDxExeter.
How do you get to work?
This morning it was by train but depends where I have meetings, I am often required to get to places outside of Exeter.
“It is the people that make it special. It is why we can get things done, great people everywhere in the city.”
You have played a key role in the huge changes that the city has seen over the years, what would you say is your greatest achievement?
Delivering the strategic projects: Cranbrook, Exeter gateway, Exeter Science Park, and Skypark to the east of the city in East Devon during the last recession. It helped maintain the city’s growth momentum and has laid the foundation for the long term prosperity of the area. But the thing that gives me most satisfaction is Princesshay. I think we got that just right.
What makes Exeter special to you?
I have put so much of my life into the place, the fabric of the city has become precious to me, but it is the people that make it special. It is why we can get things done, great people everywhere in the city.
Where is your favourite place to eat in Exeter?
Currently it would Comptoir Libanais.
Where is your favourite place to go when you have time to yourself?
If you could change one thing about Exeter what would it be?
The relationship of the Quayside to the city centre. We must be able to make a better connection that addresses the problem of the traffic and roads.
If you could sum up Exeter in one piece of music what would it be?
I can’t think of anything deep, go with Cranes in the Sky by Solange Knowles, I like seeing cranes on the skyline it makes me feel good that money is being invested in the city.
Who is your favourite Exeter Chief?
Would you rather be the Exeter Chiefs mascot (Big Chief) or a General Buller human statue for a day?
Easy one, Chiefs Mascot.
So, if you are reading this at Exeter Chiefs HQ, look out, there’s a new Big Chief in town!
Thanks to Karime for the interview and images.Tags: corn exchange, Cranbrook, Exeter, exeter chiefs, exeter city council, Exeter gateway, exeter quay, Exeter Science Park, netflix, northcott theatre, Picture House, princesshay, RAMM, Sandy park, Skypark, St James Park, tedxexeter, the Quayside