Arturas Zuokas

Be a realist. Reach for the impossible.

1968

Born in Kaunas

Arturas was born in Lithuania’s second largest city...

1983

Vocational Diploma

Arturas completed the Jonava Vocational High School...

1986

Mandatory Military Service

Arturas served a mandatory two years in the Soviet military...

1988

Member of the Sajudis Movement

From an early age, Arturas was an active leader...

1989

Journalism

Arturas entered Vilnius University’s School of Journalism in 1989...

1990

War Correspondent

As a war correspondent during 1989-1994, A. Zuokas provided firsthand televised reports...

1992

Family

“I was sitting in the School of Economics building at Vilnius University and...

1994

First Million at Age Twenty Six

“Once, when Agne and I were walking in Sereikiskis Park...

1996

Valdas Adamkus’ Campaign

Together with his colleagues, Arturas helped in raising Valdas Adamkus...

1997

Republic of Užupis

After the sale of the building to the U.S. Embassy...

1998

Public Service

The oath that members take upon joining the Vilnius Club says...

1999

From Business Into Politics

In 1999, Arturas became a member of the Lithuanian Liberal Alliance and...

2000-2007 and 2011-2015

Mayor Who Changed Vilnius

Arturas Zuokas was 32 years old when he was first elected Mayor of Vilnius. He was in charge of the city for three terms from 2000-2007 and from 2011-2015. During that time, he and his team transformed Vilnius from a post-Soviet city into a European league capital city. A new and modern city center was formed on the right side of the Neris River, the main street of Gedimino Prospect was completely overhauled, renovations of Soviet era buildings were begun in residential areas, construction a a new Western bypass was begun as well as many other crucially important steps that were needed for the city of Vilnius to progress and be a competitive force in the 21st century.

• Noted political analyst Lauras Bielinis said in 2003 that, “The actions taken by Arturas Zuokas left no one in doubt and awoke the belief in a large number of the city’s people that something could be done even then, when you’ve given up all hope”.

E-city Infrastructure Culture and Heritage Sports and Health New clinic opened in Pilaitė Economics Community Projects

BIOGRAPHY

Arturas Zuokas

Arturas Zuokas is a multi-dimensional leader whose career has thus far spanned transitions from journalism to entrepreneurship to politics. He was born in 1968 in Lithuania and graduated from the University of Vilnius with a degree in journalism.

Career in Journalism

As a war correspondent during 1989-1994, A. Zuokas provided firsthand televised reports for British and Lithuanian media from combat zones in Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Abkazhia, Chechnya, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Moldova and Transnistria. Working as a free-lance journalist for British ITN and Worldwide Television News, he worked in Moscow during the putsch and other historic events during the upheavals and changes of perestroika. His footage from war-torn areas has been shown on media outlets throughout the globe.

Business career

Upon return to Lithuania, A. Zuokas created the Baltic News Agency that specialized in televised news about current events in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The firm also had an advertising, design and video production services department.
A. Zuokas’ turn towards entrepreneurship intially focused on consulting foreign companies interested in starting businesses or trade in Lithuania. He has experience in areas as diverse as hotel construction and expanding networks of gasoline stations. He successfully negotiated and opened the first McDonalds restaurant in Lithuania and also the first Italian based Benetton store and continues to work with the Benetton company until now.

Mayor of Vilnius

A. Zuokas was first elected to the Vilnius City Council in 2000. In that same year, he was appointed to lead both the municipal and national election campaigns for the Lithuanian Liberal Union. Both were highly successful and led to the formation of a strong center-right national coalition government. A. Zuokas was the main negotiator and driving force behind the formation of the coalition itself. By November of 2000, he was elected Mayor of Vilnius, making him one of the youngest mayors of a capital city in the world. He completed his third term of office in April, 2015.
During his service as Mayor, A. Zuokas established a track record for breakthrough problem solving and fast results that reshaped the urban landscape of post-Soviet Vilnius. Paying particular regard to the historical preservation of Vilnius’ Old Town, he led plans for its renovation and historic renewal. A. Zuokas achieved a major goal with his creation of a new and vibrant center of commerce for Vilnius with sleek architecture and highly functional municipal administration buildings utilizing an area and space that had been written-off. A new bridge was built connecting this new part of the city with the older; roads, bypasses and bicycle paths were built and public transportation was improved throughout the entire city.
Municipal departments and agencies were stream-lined, completing a wholly integrated transformation of not only the city’s urban face, but also of its management type and style.
A major focus was placed on efficiency, transparency and fighting corruption. To that end, A. Zuokas slashed the administrative apparatus by one third and introduced the most advanced One Stop Inquiry center in the Baltic/Scandinavian region. Residents were able to make inquiries, file complaints and get needed permissions and documents by making one single stop at a manned window on the first floor of the city’s administrative offices.
An electronic document tracking system was introduced that allowed residents to follow the progress of their inquiries online and to identify exactly who was responsible for them. All tenders were publically announced on the internet and contained complete information on the particulars. The salaries of all public servants were also posted online.
Under Mayor Zuokas’ leadership, Vilnius has become the front-runner in the Baltic region for IT, start-ups, biotechnology and major international businesses. The establishment of science and tech hubs has been directly related to the development of the city’s social infrastructure, its economic development and ability to attract investment, funding and talent that in turn has reduced unemployment and contributed to further developments. The US magazine Inc.com ranked Vilnius fourth among its top ten most popular and fastest growing cities – ahead of Stockholm, London, Rome, Oslo and others.
Mayor Zuokas’ led city council set ambitious goals for returning energy and self-confidence to Vilnius and to making it a great place to live. They proved that they take their commitments very seriously and achieved excellent results with 93% of Vilnius residents saying that they are happy living in Vilnius, according to a Eurostat survey in 2013. This breakthrough was soon noticed around the world: Vilnius was named among the best-managed cities in the world (New York Times in 2011) and a year later it was rated fourth in global rankings for its 100% increased foreign direct investment (FDI Magazine). In 2013, Vilnius attracted the most investment in Europe in the up to 600,000 residents category. In 2014, CNN included Smart Vilnius in its TOP 10 Cities of Global Progress.
Vilnius is now poised for one of its largest leaps forward in modern history. A number of projects have been left in their launching stages: a revival of the banks of the Neris River, the Vilnius Beacon Sports and Wellness Center run by private investors and designed by world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.

National and International Politics

A. Zuokas was a major organizer and leader of two successful election campaigns in 1997 and 2004 for President of Lithuania by independent candidate Valdas Adamkus.
A. Zuokas was elected to Parliament in 2008 where he served as Chairman of the Liberal Center Union’s faction and headed the Lithuanian delegation to the European Security and Defense Assembly. He was a member of the Anti-Corruption Commission and a Joint Commission between the Parliament and the World Lithuanian Community.
He has been chairman of the Liberal Center Union party, the grass roots movement YES and is currently the chairman of the Lithuanian Liberty Alliance.
A. Zuokas was an advisor to the successful municipal election campaign of Boris Filatov in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine in 2015. B. Filatov won the office of Mayor.

Cultural Programs

A.Zuokas was Chairman of the Board of the Vilnius - European Capital of Culture 2009 program. He has spearheaded large-scale projects of economic and cultural significance in Lithuania, including a potential Hermitage/Guggenheim Museum which included a competition between world renowned architects Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadia and Massimiliano Fuksas, judged by a panel of international experts and won by Pritzker prize winner Zaha Hadid. He was instrumental in founding the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius that acquired a significant collection of Fluxus art. He organized the publishing of the award winning book Illegal Living and established The Ministry of Fluxus, a center for cutting edge and experimental art and performances

Other Initiatives

The introduction of orange bikes for shared daily use by residents and tourists was the first of many innovative and creative ideas by A. Zuokas to engage the community in the vibrancy of a city’s life. Sundays became a day when Senior Citizens could commune over a free cup of coffee in the city’s best cafes. The Mano Guru restaurant provided an opportunity for recovered addicts to work and contribute to society. Tai-chi exercise programs were introduced in city parks. And, Vilnius became a City of Angels when he decided to commission a local artist to create the friendly creatures to perch on various benches and rooftops throughout the city. He urged residents to fight litter and set a personal example. A Public Service Announcement Don’t Make Me Get the Tank! featured Mayor Zuokas riding over a Mercedes that was illegally parked in a bike lane in 2011. The video went viral and was broadcast by major television outlets around the entire world. The PSA won the European Excellence Award in International Communication.

Awards and Honors

A.Zuokas is the recipient of numerous international and national awards and honors. He was decorated by President Jacques Chirac of France in 2001 with the National Order of Merit and President Vaira Vike-Freibergs of Latvia for his contribution to the betterment of bi-lateral relations.
He was twice elected Vice President of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. The Junior Chamber International recognized A. Zuokas for his administrative achievements by naming him one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World in 2002. The U.S. Baltic Foundation honored his achievements in 2003 and the Balzekas Museum in Chicago, Illinois named him Man of the Year. National awards have included Friend of Architects. He is a three-time recipient of the popular Vilnius Iron Wolf award.
A. Zuokas was bestowed an honorary degree from the Gediminas Technical University in 2003.

Organizations

A. Zuokas is the Executive Director of the Azzara Foundation and a long-time member as well as youngest (at 29 years old) past President of the Rotary Club in Vilnius. He has served as President of the Vilnius Club. He is a member of the International Gourmands’ Association. He also served on the Board of the Alma Adamkiene Foundation.
A. Zuokas was elected to the Board of Directors of Anthology Film Archives in 2009. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Jonas Mekas Foundation USA.

Personal

Arturas Zuokas is married to Agne Zuokiene and is the father of three children: Gabriele, Domantas and Emilija. He enjoys sailing, tennis and photography.

1968
Born in Kaunas

Arturas was born in Lithuania’s second largest city, Kaunas, but grew up in a number of different locations, mostly Jonava, as his parents kept moving in their search for job opportunities and more affordable housing.

The family’s life was a hard one and it fell upon Arturas, as the oldest brother, to take care of his two younger siblings. He often went around collecting bottles with deposits on them for recycling change and worked on construction sites in order to provide food for the family.

1983
Vocational Diploma

Arturas completed the Jonava Vocational High School with honors and earned a Machinist’s degree in electrical equipment maintenance. He interned and later worked for the Azotas (Achema) Company in Jonava.

1986
Mandatory Military Service

Arturas served a mandatory two years in the Soviet military. He was posted to the North Sea Navy infantry squad “Sputnik” that was stationed near the Barents Sea, close to the Norwegian border.

1988
Member of the Sajudis Movement

From an early age, Arturas was an active leader. During Lithuania’s rebirth as a nation in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, he participated in demonstrations and mass meetings organized by the Sajudis Movement, stopped a Soviet Army parade in Vilnius, was a staunch supporter of the Lithuanian Freedom League and a founder of the Lithuanian Youth Council. In 1989, he was elected as a delegate to the Lithuanian Communist Youth Association convention, where he unequivocally spoke out for the separation of the organization from Moscow as well as for its liquidation altogether. This move created an opportunity for the founding of independent Lithuanian youth organizations. In 1989, Arturas, together with friends and colleagues, founded the Humanistic Youth Association and published a monthly newsletter titled Homo Sovieticus.

1989
Journalism

Arturas entered Vilnius University’s School of Journalism in 1989.
He says, “A journalist’s profession always seemed romantic to me, because it changes the world and makes it better. Fighting for truth and important principles were always important for me. I believed that journalism would provide me with a wide breadth of experience, a chance to see the world and meet interesting people. I believed that the work would allow me to transform myself into different personalities and try out various professions. I lived by the motto – Why choose one, when you can try out all of them?

1990
War Correspondent

As a war correspondent during 1989-1994, A. Zuokas provided firsthand televised reports for British and Lithuanian media from combat zones in Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Abkazhia, Chechnya, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Moldova and Transnistria. Working as a free-lance journalist for British ITN and Worldwide Television News, he covered Moscow during the putsch and other historic events during the upheavals and changes of perestroika in the Baltic region. It was a period that was interesting, meaningful and full of challenges, risks and new experiences for Arturas.

1992
Family

“I was sitting in the School of Economics building at Vilnius University and was looking out at the students who would be my classmates after completing their entrance exams. I was already done with mine. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to a girl with long black hair who was very stylishly dressed. She was coming closer, her long, black raincoat elegantly flowing behind her and I was astounded to see that she was walking a poodle. ‘Won’t the teachers think that she’s being quite forward? She’s daring to bring a dog to the entrance exams!’, I thought to myself and at the same time, thought to myself that she could be my wife,” says Arturas.

Arturas and Agne were married in 1992. They have three children: Gabriele, Domantas and Emilija.

1994
First Million at Age Twenty Six

“Once, when Agne and I were walking in Sereikiskis Park, I noticed a run-down building on the other side of the Vilnele River that was practically in the river. I asked Agne if she would want to live there? She gasped that it would be romantic, but clearly did not believe that it would be possible. Then, I said to her, ‘That means that we will indeed live here.’ I thought that if some money were invested in the building, we could have an incredible place to live and when we had finished renovating and cleaning up the outdoor area, we could open a small high-end hotel”, says Arturas.

Wasting no time, the next day, Arturas distributed notices to the people living in the house with an offer to buy their apartments and the building was soon his. Complex restoration work was begun.

At the same time, the U.S. Embassy was looking for a suitable place for the ambassador’s residence. Negotiations lasted for half a year and resulted in Arturas receiving his first check for a million dollars. He was 26 years old.

Arturas’ head was constantly full of ideas: he founded the first Lithuanian-French firm BNA – Baltic News Agency in 1992 that prepared reports about Lithuania and other countries in the region for foreign news outlets and were the first in the country to offer advertising and marketing services. After a year, he and his partners opened the most modern household appliance chain of stores in Lithuania. The Italian company United Colors of Benetton opened a shop on the main street of Vilnius, Gedimino Prospect. A contract was signed with McDonald’s Europe for the first fast food restaurant in Lithuania.

1996
Valdas Adamkus’ Campaign

Together with his colleagues, Arturas helped in raising Valdas Adamkus – at that time, a high-ranking US Environmental Protection Agency official – as a candidate for president of Lithuania. He obtained the backing of the Lithuanian Center Union for support and organized a successful election campaign. Valdas Adamkus was elected President of Lithuania in 1998. Arturas also headed V. Adamkus’ successful Presidential election campaign in 2004.

1997
Republic of Užupis

After the sale of the building to the U.S. Embassy, Arturas had to find a new place for his family to live. That place was Užupis, where the family acquired an apartment and later an entire building on the banks of the Vilnelė River.
Užupis was not always as attractive an area as it is now to live, create or just take a walk. The neighborbook was unsafe and run-down. But, in his imagination, Arturas saw it as a totally different kind of place – one that was cozy, orderly and full of artistic expression. At the same time, wanting to attract the attention of the government to the state of affairs in Užupis, he and his friends came up with the idea of declaring Užupis an independent republic. Arturas chose April 1 – April Fool’s Day - for the declaration of independence.

“The Lithuanian word “už” means “for”. Užupis is always FOR and never AGAINST. Užupis is free not because the republic is free, but because free people live here. I always liked Mark Twain, who astutely noticed that most serious things are first said in jest”, says Arturas.

1998
Public Service

The oath that members take upon joining the Vilnius Club says, “May there be no task, either small, or large, that I would not be willing to complete on behalf of the capital of Lithuania.” Arturas helped to found the Vilnius Club and fostered its development.

The most active members of Vilnius’ business, science and cultural communities came together with their varied ideas, talents and financial contributions so that they could make Vilnius’ name known ever more widely and enrich the life of Lithuania’s capital city.

Arturas was an active member of the board in the Alma Adamkiene Charitable Foundation. He also founded the Vilnius Tennis Club and was its chairman, a member of the Knowledge Economy Forum, a member as well as vice-president of the Board of Directors of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, president of the Lithuanian Soccer Club Žalgiris and a member of the Journalists’ Union.

Arturas has been an active member of the Rotary Club for many years and, at age 29, was elected president of one of its chapters.

Together with his wife, Agne, he initiated many social actions, among them the Pregnant Mothers Celebration that brings together hundreds of pregnant women for an annual event and a Christmas season event for Seniors called Let’s Meet Over a Cup of Coffee.

1999
From Business Into Politics

Lithuanian Liberal Alliance and quickly rose in the party’s ranks. He led the party’s successful parliamentary election campaign to win 34 seats. The LLA also secured the seat of Prime Minister in a coalition government of “New Politics” that Arturas was instrumental in forming. The lessons he learned during that time were invaluable.

Arturas himself was elected to Parliament in 2008 where he was the Chairman of the Liberal Center Union’s faction and headed the Lithuanian delegation to the European Security and Defense Assembly. He was a member of the Anti-Corruption Commission and a Joint Commission between the Parliament and the World Lithuanian Community.

Over the years, he has been elected chairman of the Liberal Center Union Party, the grass roots movement YES and is currently the chairman of the Lithuanian Liberty Alliance.

Arturas was an advisor to the recent municipal election campaign in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine where Boris Filatov won elected Mayor in 2015.

High profile British actor Jeremy Irons, former Guggenheim Museum Director Thomas Krens as well as the Godfather of Avant-Garde Cinema, Jonas Mekas, have all expressed public support for Arturas in his political goals.

E-city

mTicket
mParking
Complaint Registration System
Vilnius Tech Park
Single Window System
Open Data Bank
Interactive Vilnius City Map

Infrastruktūra

New City Center
Air Lituanica
Vilnius Rides
Revamped Public Transportation
22% Heating Costs Reduction
Reconstruction of Kalvarijų Market
Bernardinų Gardens
Jeruzalė Park of Righteous
Western Bypass
Southern Bypass
Konstitucijos Prospect
Konstitucijos Prospect

Culture and Heritage

Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center
Hermitage/Guggenheim Museum
Great Synagogue
Museum of Modern Art
Ministry of Fluxus - Vilnius and Kaunas
3D Christmas Story

Sports and Health

Orange Bikes
Liepkalnis Sports Center
Tai Chi
Mano Guru
Healthy City

Renovations:
Lazdynai Hospital
Šeškinės Clinic
St. Rocco’s Hospital
Mykolas Marcinkevičius Hospital
Karoliniškės Medical Center
Vilnius Home for Infants with Impaired Development

Education

Electronic registration system for preschool programs
New preschool in Santariškės
3,640 new preschool slots made available
Over 40 schools renovated and 22 more slated
New libraries in Žirmūnai and Pilaitė

Economics

Vilnius tops list of foreign investors in Europe (Financial Times)
Unemployment dropped from 12.4% in 2011 to 6.5% in 2015
Social welfare recipients dropped by 36% from 2011 to 2015
New city branding launched
Vilnius Film Office
Vilnius Tech Park

Community Projects

Gift to Vilnius. CSR donations of over €500,000.
Come for a Cup of Coffee. Free coffee for Seniors
Protect Me
Park Right
Expectant Mothers’ Celebration

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