John Fetterman

Mayor John Fetterman, who holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, first came to Braddock, Pennsylvania as an Americorps volunteer 2001. He moved there in 2003 and won the mayoral election in 2005 by a single vote.  In 2006, Fetterman also founded (and currently directs) Braddock Redux, the town’s only youth program and community center, helping teens stay in school, earn their GEDs, and stay off the streets.

Braddock was home to Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, which is operated today by U.S. Steel and employs 1,000 steelworkers; none of them live in Braddock. The once vibrant steel town now struggles with high rates of poverty (three times the national average) and homicide (six times the national average). There is no gas station, supermarket, or even a restaurant. The average home price is $6,000.

Fetterman’s mayoral website asks: “Can a town that lost 90% of its population, homes and businesses come back? Could Braddock’s remaining assets be leveraged … to spark a cultural and economic revitalization?” Fetterman believes the answer is yes, insisting“We’re not distressed, we’re experimental.” He is rebuilding the community by creating urban gardens, producing public art, planting community orchards, building basketball courts, reclaiming abandoned homes, converting empty businesses into an artist colony, and more. His innovative approach has attracted the attention of Rolling Stone, The New York Times and “The Colbert Report.”