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Feature of the Week: The Teacher in the Treasury

Magazine

Feature of the Week: The Teacher in the Treasury

Being Iceland’s Minister of Finance is a very busy and wide-ranging task as all State government matters land on their desk. Last January, Oddný G. Harðardóttir took on that role. A newcomer in the field, this former teacher has been climbing the ranks of Icelandic politics at remarkable speed.

Published in the 2012 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.12. By Höskuldur Daði Magnússon. Photo by Páll Stefánsson. Translated by Ásta Andrésdóttir.

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Oddný Harðardóttir’s career in Icelandic politics is quite interesting. After earning a teaching degree, she taught math and worked within the school system, for the most part at Suðurnes Comprehensive College (Fjölbrautaskóli Suðurnesja). Oddný began her political career in municipal politics six years ago in her home region, the Reykjanes Peninsula. Three years later, she became a member of Parliament and last January, she became Minister of Finance. She says she is quite happy in her new job.

“Of course I have always been interested in social issues,” she replies when asked how she ended up in politics. She was born and raised in a village called Garðurinn, which is where it all began when four women came together one Monday night and discussed what they wanted to change about the way the village was governed. By the next meeting, the group had grown larger, and soon the women had decided to run for office together in the 2006 municipal elections.

“We all came from different directions and we weren’t discussing party politics per se. We were discussing our views of our community and what we believed should be fixed,” explains Oddný. When the group gained support from a minority party in the town council, they abandoned their ideas of forming a women’s political party.

The group articulated policy on every social issue and chose Oddný as its leader in the upcoming elections. “To begin with, I thought it was an awful idea. Politics was not where my ambitions lay. But then I agreed to do it. And when we won, it was the beginning of a great adventure,” says Oddný who became mayor after the election. She held that office until 2009 when she ran for Parliament, representing the Social Democratic Alliance. “There was such short notice for the elections and they were looking for someone who wouldn’t need much introduction in the constituency. I am not going to sell myself short—of course I had something to offer. But it helped that a promotional campaign was not necessary.”

Nobody in their right mind would oppose a female mayor with a background in the school system…

“No, I think voters believed that I was fairly decent.”

You can read the remainder of this article in the 2012 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.12. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe.