Pete's South Bend Tribune Profile

South Bend mayoral candidate Pete Buttigieg wants to bring fresh start to the city

His experience most relevant for job, he says


By Jeff Parrott, The South Bend Tribune

April 21, 2011

SOUTH BEND — For more than a year, Pete Buttigieg would drive by the stately, yet rundown and vacant, historic home on North Shore Drive and cringe.

The pillars holding up the second floor porch were buckling, as if the whole thing could topple at any moment.

He wished someone would buy it and restore its glory.

Finally, in February 2009, he bought it himself and has made significant progress in its renovation.

Buttigieg (pronounced BOOT-uh-judge) says it's an apt metaphor for why he decided to run for mayor of South Bend.

"You can only look at something for so long and feel frustrated before you just have to get in and do something yourself," he said in an interview Wednesday at his home.

Buttigieg is running against Barrett Berry, Ryan Dvorak and Mike Hamann in the May 3 Democratic primary. At age 29, he is the youngest candidate and lacks the political experience of his opponents.

Dvorak has spent nearly a decade in the Indiana House. Hamann is a former county commissioner and current County Council member. Berry held several posts in the Clinton administration, and was chief of staff for a Massachusetts state senator.

"No candidate in this race has had, individually, executive authority over an organization the size of this city, so the question is what background and tools can each of us bring to do a good job?" Buttigieg said. "I know I'm young, but I think my experience is most relevant."

Buttigieg has distinguished himself as an achiever everywhere he has been, and he exudes confidence as he leads the others, by far, in campaign fundraising.

He was born and raised in the same neighborhood where he now lives, the North Shore Triangle area, the only child of University of Notre Dame English professors, Joseph Buttigieg and Ann Montgomery.

He was class president and valedictorian at St. Joseph's High School and earned a bachelor's degree in history and literature from Harvard University. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where in 2007 he earned a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, with a concentration in economics.

From there he went to work at the Chicago office of McKinsey & Co., a global business consulting firm. He was responsible for advising senior business and government leaders on major decisions related to economic development, energy policy, strategic business initiatives, and logistics, he said. His work took him around the country and the world, including to Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's this part of his sum that Buttigieg cites as his private sector experience.

But he had begun feeling a pull toward public office back at Harvard. He was captivated by some of its guest speakers, including John Brademas.

He also had read a lot about one of its most famous alums, John F. Kennedy, who had entered the university with plans of becoming a journalist, only to shift gears after he had arrived.

"The more I kind of looked at his trajectory, the more I became interested in it," he said. "He interested a new generation of people to get involved, through the Peace Corps and his campaign. A lot of people in my parents generation credit Mr. Kennedy for inspiring them to get more engaged."

After two years there, he quit his job at McKinsey and Co. to run for Indiana state treasurer, losing in a Republican landslide.

Around New Years 2011, shortly after Stephen Luecke announced he would not seek re-election, Buttigieg realized he wanted to run for the office.

"The same issues I was trying to draw attention to running for treasurer are at the heart of the race for mayor," he said. "You have this moment. It's been 24 years since we haven't had an incumbent mayor on the ballot. ... What I had to offer seemed like a great fit."