Ivan Žagar began his studies at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, University of Maribor in 1981. In 1986, he graduated under the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and began his career at the same faculty as a young researcher. He became a teaching assistant in 1988, got his Master’s Degree a year later, and received a national award for young researchers in 1990.
He earned his PhD in 1992 and the title of an assistant professor on the subject of the Process systems engineering, devices in process industries at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, where he continued his active involvement in the teaching process up to 1999, also as a mentor and co-mentor to undergraduate and postgraduate students. He has gained additional knowledge and experience at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and Wessex Institute of Technology in Great Britain. In addition to his personal bibliography, which consists of more than 100 units, he is the author of numerous scientific research papers and other essays in Slovene as well as foreign journals. In the field of research work, he has participated at various local and international conferences; cooperating with international association GAMM (Gesellschaft für Angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik), Slovenian Society for Mechanics, and Slovenian Society for Modelling and Simulation, etc.
In 1994, he was elected Mayor of the Municipality of Slovenska Bistrica, the position he held until the end of 2004. In this decade, the municipality blossomed in a lively pulse of development in the field of economy as well as other areas of public sector, with activities in planning and implementation of development programmes reaching into wider regional area.
Among other things, he was also a board member of the Small Projects Fund under the Phare Cross-Border Cooperation programme, on the project board for the programme Phare: Regional Development Activities, and a member of the guiding assembly for Human Resources Development Fund, etc. He has also cooperated in the Slovenian Committee of the Regions since the country’s full membership in the EU. During the management of the municipality, he has devoted special attention to the realisation of projects in the field of economy as well as solving problems of energy and environmental protection related matters (wastewater treatment, waste management, use of biomass for energy needs, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, etc.).
On December 16th 2004, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia sworn him in as Minister of the Government Office for Local Self-Government and Regional Policy, the position he maintained until the end of mandate, November 21st 2008. He devoted special attention to core areas: development of local self-government, regional policy, effective acquisition of 2004 – 2006 EU funding, and negotiations within the EU institutions for the new financial period 2007 – 2013 in the field of European regional and cohesion policy. The successful implementation and completion of these negotiations allowed for the country’s new content funding (including the field of energy efficiency) from EU Structural Funds.
In 2010, he was elected assistant professor for the subject field of energy technology, giving lectures on environmental protection and efficient use of energy at the Faculty of Energy Technology, University of Maribor.
At the local elections in 2010, he was re-elected Mayor of the Municipality Slovenska Bistrica.
In 2011 he was elected Head of the Slovenian Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions.
Since October 2012, he has been the chairman of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia.