Eberhard van der Laan, the popular mayor of Amsterdam who ran the city with both a firm hand and compassionate touch, has died of lung cancer. He was 62.

Amsterdam Municipality, which Van der Laan led for seven years before stepping down last month because of his failing health, said early on Friday that Van der Laan died Thursday night.

In September, he wrote an open letter to Amsterdam’s residents announcing he was leaving office.

He closed the letter with a line that underscored his affection for both the city and its residents: “Take good care of our city and of each other. Farewell.”

Following the announcement, hundreds of people gathered outside his official residence, a historic canal-side mansion, and applauded the mayor.

No-nonsense approach

Van der Laan, considered by many as the most popular Dutch politician in recent years, was known for his no-nonsense approach in local politics, which earned him an ever-increasing fan base in the Netherlands.

After announcing his illness in January, many used #VanderLaan on Twitter to express their support for the Labour Party politician, while Dutch media called him a “folk hero”.

In 2013, Van der Laan, a heavy smoker, was also treated for prostate cancer. 

He was given a 7.7 score on his job performance in 2015, a particularly high score, according to daily newspaper De Volkskrant.

This summer, Van der Laan, 62, appeared in a wide-ranging TV interview that drew over a million viewers, who watched the live broadcast in bars and theatres across the city.

The host of the programme asked what the mayor hoped would be his legacy in the Dutch capital.

“That it remains the kind city it is,” he said, while fighting tears.

Source: Al Jazeera News

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