Lokman Erturk, a Turkish alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), administered through the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the October State Alumni Member of the Month. Lokman participated in the program during his first term as mayor of Kazan, a district of Ankara, on the theme of Municipal Governance and Intergovernmental Relations in the U.S. in 2006. Since returning to Kazan from his exchange, Lokman has initiated infrastructure and economic development projects that have made it one of the fastest growing districts in Ankara.
Describing the impact of his exchange program, Lokman states, “I was very impressed with American culture, people and the way Americans do business during my exchange visit. Upon my return to Turkey from my exchange program, I started implementing the concepts and ideas in my district, Kazan. As the first implementation inspired by my visit to the USA, I built the infrastructure of the district’s wastewater and clean water facilities. As a result, I was the first Mayor of Kazan to be re-elected for a second term.” Under Lokman’s leadership, Kazan now leads Ankara districts in attracting public investment and ranks 40th out of 948 national districts in attracting public investment.
As mayor of Kazan, Lokman has made a name for himself as a coalition builder who brings together city officials, community leaders, and other Ankara governmental organizations for the betterment of the district. His leadership has led to the addition of new sports complexes, green areas, and parks in Kazan. Additionally, he has overseen the implementation of aid campaigns to help local citizens in need of food.
Lokman also builds on his exchange experience by creating opportunities to foster mutual understanding between the people of America and Turkey. In April 2012, he worked with the U.S. Embassy to organize and host a forest-planting ceremony in Kazan. The event brought Kazan city officials together with Ambassador Ricciardone and his wife, Turkish alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, as well as embassy staff and families. In his opening remarks at the ceremony, the mayor named the forest the “American Friendship Forest” and called it “a symbol of friendship between American and Turkish people.” Lokman sums up his motivation for supporting this kind of activity stating, “I strongly believe exchange programs contribute to the advancement of mutual understanding between two nations and the prevention of prejudice.”