By WNDU News
March 20, 2011
Five weeks remain before the Democratic primary, when voters will decide which of the four candidates they want to take on the Republican challenger in the election for South Bend’s mayor.
Continuing our series of speaking with every mayoral candidate -- both Republican and Democratic, if they agree to appear on our show -- this Sunday we sit down with Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg is a South Bend native. He graduated from Harvard and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University.
He’s worked as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, served in the Naval Reserve, and most recently Buttigieg ran for State Treasurer.
“It’s been 24 years since South Bend has had an election for mayor with no incumbent on the ballot. And so I think, this election has a dynamic to it, where we’re really having a completely new kind of conversation about what the future of our city is going to be like,” said Buttigieg.
“The reason I think we need a fresh start is because that’s what I’m hearing, as I go out in our community. I go everywhere I can, whether it’s touring the floor of a factory to talk with workers, visiting a classroom or just knocking on doors and talking to people on their porches.”
“And what I hear is that, there’s a real appetite for a new way of doing business. To get some fresh ideas and some fresh legs, into the way we run our government.”
We asked him about goals.
“Job number one is to get our economy on track. If we want to make sure that this is the kind of city that never again appears on a list of an American top 10 dying cities, we’ve got to make sure that we have a vibrant economy, and that means addressing the entire economic spectrum. It’s good that we’re doing the work we’re doing for the future, on technology and innovation. We’ve also got to make sure that we fill out our traditional strengths in manufacturing – especially the kind of advanced manufacturing that has a future and isn’t as vulnerable to Chinese competition as some other kinds of manufacturing.”
“One of the things we have to do, in terms of city government, is get some new leadership around all of the different organizations that are trying to be part of the solution. By my count, we have about 14 different groups that address economic development. And I’m not sure that they’ve all been on the same page. So one thing I wanna do as mayor is round them up and hammer out a new kind of division of labor.”
“Another thing we need to do has to do with education. The school board is independent, but that doesn’t mean that the mayor has no role in leadership and in partnership with our educational system. And if we’re concerned about jobs, concerned about the economy, I think the mayor is often the only person who can convene employers and educators together to make sure that our school system is creating the kind of skills that our employers need in order to grow.”
What don’t people know about Pete Buttigieg?
“One thing I’m proud of is I’m restoring a house in the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s actually less than a mile from here. Another thing is that once upon a time I thought I was gonna be a journalist.”
What’s the biggest difference between running for state office and for mayor?
“It’s so immediate,” said Buttigieg. “When you’re running for state office, there are more than 1.5 million voters. This time it’s our own community. And it’s friends, and it’s neighbors, and it’s families that I already know in many cases, and the rest I can’t wait to get to know. So the biggest thing is just the pace of trying to hit every corner of our community, and ask people what they wanna see.”
At just 29, is he ready for the city’s top job?
“The funny thing is, I think I’m actually the most experienced candidate when it comes to economics and business. I’m the only candidate who has been part of billion-dollar decision-making in the private sector, I think I’m the only one with an economics degree, I’m the only one who’s done economic development for a living, and I’ve done it in places like Afghanistan, some of the toughest places in the world. So, I know it’s a funny thing to say as a very young candidate. But, actually I think the number one reason to support me is my experience.”