John Fetterman (politician)

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John Fetterman
John Fetterman - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, ME 2.jpg
John Fetterman at the Pop!Tech 2009
Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania
Assumed office
Personal details
Born 1969 (age 46–47)
Reading, Pennsylvania[1]
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Albright College
Harvard University

John Fetterman (born c. 1969) is an American politician who is mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Fetterman is a native of York, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Albright College in 1991 and then attended Harvard University where he earned a master's degree in Public Policy. He moved to Braddock in 2001 to serve with AmeriCorps, won the mayoral election in 2005, and was re-elected in May 2009. As mayor, Fetterman has drawn international attention in trying to revitalize the economy in Braddock. While the town had over 20,000 residents in the first half of the 20th century due to its proximity to Andrew Carnegie's steel mills, the population and economy collapsed beginning in the 1970s with the decline of the steel industry.


Fetterman, who is 6 ft 8 in (203 cm) tall and weighs 350 lb (158.8 kg),[2] graduated from Harvard University in 1999 with a Master of Public Policy degree.[3] He moved to Braddock in 2001 to work for AmeriCorps, helping local youth who had left school earn their GED. After living in Braddock for four years, attracted by what he called the town's "malignant beauty", Fetterman ran against the incumbent mayor in 2005 and won by a single vote.[4][2] As the part-time mayor, Fetterman earned $110.22 a month in 2007. His full-time job, still as the director of the out of school youth program, paid around $30,000 annually.[5] In addition to his work with the program, Fetterman established strong relationships with the 16- to 24-year-old population, helping many in finding employment, and working with them with issues involving family, social agencies, and police.[3] He also founded the 501(c)(3), Braddock Redux.[3]

Following his election, Fetterman initiated youth and art programs, created a community center, and has tried to initiate development of the town's mostly ruined buildings and poor economy.[6] With family money, Fetterman purchased the town's First Presbyterian Church before demolition for $50,000, living in the basement for several months.[7] He later purchased an adjacent warehouse for $2,000, placed two shipping containers on the roof for "extra living space" and moved in.[4][5] He has since purchased and renovated many additional houses and offered cheap, even free rent. Fetterman has attracted many young artists to the town through cheap rent and starting various art exhibitions.[4] The town's "renaissance" has attracted individuals from cities such as Chicago and Portland, Oregon, drawn by the potential for development and growth.[8] Other programs include a two-acre organic urban farm, worked by teenagers of the Braddock Youth Project.[3]

Fetterman's commitment to the community of Braddock is shown with various tattoos. On his left arm are the numbers 15104 - Braddock's zip code, and on the right, five dates of murders that occurred in the town.[8]

Fetterman has also been involved in the Environmental Defense Fund's advocacy for carbon caps and green technology, believing development of green energy industries can revitalize the region's economy.[9][10]

In order to help fund programs, Fetterman has established relationships with local non-profit organizations, Allegheny County's economic development program, and county executive Dan Onorato.[3] Opposition to Fetterman's activities while mayor has come from borough council president Jesse Brown. In March 2009, Brown ordered the borough's code enforcement officer to cite Fetterman for an occupancy permit violation for a building owned by Fetterman's non-profit organization. Brown also asked the judge to move the hearing to before the May mayoral election so that the people could be aware of the situation. The judge later dismissed the complaint.[11]

In 2009, Fetterman was re-elected as mayor after winning the Democratic primary against Jayme Cox by a vote of 294 to 103.[12][13]

In January of 2016, he announced that he endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.[14]


The town of Braddock, a suburb of Pittsburgh, was founded around the site of Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill, the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in 1873, as well as the first Carnegie library, and developed with the local steel industry.[6] In the 1920s, the town was more densely populated than Brooklyn, New York City. In the mid-1940s the town had around 20,000 residents. With the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s, many of the residents moved elsewhere in search of work, and other businesses failed. In the impoverished urban environment, street gangs such as the Crips became popular.[4] The population dropped to below 3,000 in 2009. In 2008, the average house value was $6,200, and 300 within the borough were vacant.[6][2] The town had just two operating stores.[8] While the steel mill still operates 24 hours a day, it employed just 560 people in 2010, compared to more than 5,000 at one point.[3]

2016 U.S. Senate campaign[edit]

On September 11, 2015, Fetterman announced that he would be vying for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Pat Toomey in the 2016 election. His campaign was considered a surprise against fellow Democrats Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty.[15]


Fetterman's efforts to create youth-oriented programs, revitalize his town, and attract artists and other "creatives" to his community were featured in The New York Times. An article about him, describing him as "America's coolest mayor", appeared on July 15, 2009 in The Guardian in the United Kingdom.[16]

Fetterman was the guest on the Colbert Report on February 25, 2009, discussing the economic difficulties his town faced due to a decreasing population, plummeting real estate values, and bankruptcy. He also questioned why funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 could not be used to support projects such as those in Braddock.[6][8] He appeared again on August 16, 2010, discussing what he had been doing and the town's partnership with Levi Strauss.

In 2010, Levi Strauss & Company donated money to the Braddock's revitalization and features the town in an advertising campaign and documentary produced by Sundance Channel.[17]

On November 29, 2010, Fetterman was arrested and immediately released in Pittsburgh. Fetterman had refused to leave the property of the U.S. Steel Tower where he was protesting the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). UPMC had recently closed its Braddock Hospital despite objections by Fetterman and the local community.[18][19]

On May 7, 2012, Fetterman was featured on A Day in the Life where he discusses his responsibilities and desires for Braddock, as well as his personal history and views.[20]


  1. ^ 4:20 mark
  2. ^ a b c Mendelson, Abby (April 25, 2007). "Pop Star: John Fetterman". Pop City Media. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Brown, Nell Porter. "Wrought from Ruins". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Braddock, Penn". Ready Made. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Jones, Diana Nelson (May 6, 2007). "The Next Page: Braddock, the Rebound Town". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Johnson, L.A. (February 27, 2009). "Mayor takes needy Braddock's story nationwide". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  7. ^ Stroud, Matt (August 31, 2006). "A Call to Arms: Braddock Mayor John Fetterman Wears His Allegiances on His Sleeve". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved June 27, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d Streitfeld, David (January 31, 2009). "Rock Bottom for Decades, but Showing Signs of Life". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  9. ^ "About John Fetterman". Environmental Defense Fund. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  10. ^ It's the Only Place I've Ever Called Home. Environmental Defense Fund. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  11. ^ Balingit, Moriah (March 26, 2009). "Judge dismisses complaint against Braddock mayor". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2009. 
  12. ^ Balingit, Moriah (May 20, 2009). "After nasty campaign, Braddock mayor Fetterman breezes to win". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  13. ^ Balingit, Moriah (May 14, 2009). "Braddock mayoral race gets nastier". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Sestak gets another foe; Braddock mayor enters Dem U.S. Senate race". Delaware County Daily Times. Associated Press. September 11, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  16. ^ Pilkington, Ed (July 15, 2009). "Coolest mayor in America? Why John Fetterman has his postcode tattooed on his arm". London: The Guardian. Retrieved July 15, 2009. 
  17. ^ Elliott, Stuart (June 23, 2010). "Levi’s Features a Town Trying to Recover". New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Braddock Mayor Arrested For Protesting At UPMC". WTAE-TV. November 30, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Braddock mayor's one-man protest ends in arrest". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 29, 2010. Retrieved November 30, 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  20. ^ "John Fetterman". HULU. May 7, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 

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