Reepalu became mayor (kommunstyrelsens ordförande) of Sweden’s third largest city, situated in the south across the Öresund sound from Copenhagen, in 1994.
He announced his planned resignation in the debate pages of the regional newspaper Sydsvenskan on Monday.
In his letter to the paper, Reepalu brought up the anti-Semitism accusations levelled against him in recent years, which brought on a visit from US President Barack Obama’s special anti-Semitism representative Hannah Rosenthal.
“Badly chosen phrases on my part were misinterpreted and twisted into deeply insulting statements about my beliefs,” he wrote on Monday. His chief of staff at the time said that Rosenthal had planned to visit the city before the statements were made.
Reepalu also took the opportunity to look back at the entire tenure as head of Malmö municipality and the woes facing the city.
“The death of industry and the flight of business meant the municipality had reached a gigantic 22-percent unemployment rate,” he wrote about the early 1990s when the labour party took power in Malmö.
Listing the challenges he faced, Reepalu also wrote that the previous administration at city hall had left him with the biggest budget deficit in the history of Swedish municipal politics – 1.3 billion kronor ($200 million).
He decided to focus on Chalmers professor Åke E. Andersson’s vision of a K-Society – knowledge, creative resources, communications, cultural capital (kunskaper, kreativa resurser, kommunikationssystem, kulturellt kapital).
“Instead of Malmö desperately trying to attract big mature industry for the workers city, a rather pointless hunt tinged with the values of the past, I wanted us to focus on welfare-creating K:s.”
He criticized then prime minister and party colleague Göran Persson for not helping to upgrade Malmö’s college to a university, but said the reform was near. Persson’s government also, he wrote, stalled far too long in helping Malmö with major public transport investments.
Reepalu said the city now needed a new leader ahead of the 2014 elections. He would not, he said, quit politics all together but aim to replace his 80-hour week with a normal working schedule and spend more time with his grandchild.