Jens Böhrnsen, former Mayor of Bremen

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Jens Böhrnsen
former Mayor of Bremen, Germany

1 April 2008: Born in Bremen in 1949, Jens Böhrnsen is mayor of the city and state of Bremen for the Social Democrats (SPD). Böhrnsen studied at the Gymnasium Waller Ring, graduating in 1968. He joined the SPD in 1967 and the Union of the Service Industries (ver.di ) in 1969. He attended the University of Kiel where he took law, first undertaking the state bar exam in 1973 before being admitted to the bar in 1977 on his second examination. The mayor was shortlisted for the 2008 World Mayor Prize.

Böhrnsen entered the civil service in 1974 and became a member of the civil service for the state of Bremen in 1977. In 1978 he became Probationary judge at the Administrative Court of Bremen, before obtaining full tenure as a judge in 1980. He became Chief Judge in 1991. Böhrnsen then left the administration to serve as an SPD Bremen state parliamentarian in 1995, becoming head of the Bremen state SPD in 1999. Following the resignation of Henning Scherf as SPD mayor in 2005, Böhrnsen was selected as the party’s standard-bearer for Mayor and President of the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.

After the 2007 state elections, Böhrnsen discontinued the SPD’s local Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats (CDU) and instead opted to enter government with the Greens, not least as he had previously been bound by a 2003 election pact instigated by his predecessor, citing the electorate’s emphatic rejection of the CDU candidate for mayor Thomas Röwekamp as grounds to do so. At the time the disenchantment with both main parties and the support picked up by the minor parties was thought to have national significance for the federal Grand Coalition but this suggestion was rejected by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As a state-level city state within the German federal constitution (owing to the peculariarities of German nation-building during the 19th century), Bremen is both a city and a state. As such, the president of the state senate acts as mayor for the city of Bremen (but not Bremerhaven, the other city in the state). Böhrnsen has been particularly active in recent debates about federalism in Germany, not least over proposals to merge the states of Bremen and Lower Saxony in the name of efficiency.

Böhrnsen is married with two grown up sons.

World Mayor 2023