Meet John Fetterman, the young, hip and burly Mayor of the blighted, post-industrial steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. His city infrastructure is in ruins, and this town of 3,000 no longer has a bar, a liquor store, or even a restaurant, but Fetterman says opportunity is waiting in Braddock and he’s inviting us to take a look. See photos, videos and biography below.

John Fetterman Mayor 26





John Fetterman


John Fetterman is on a mission to revive and rebuild his historic town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Appearances on Colbert Nation and Fox News are elevating the face of this financially decimated town. You can view Fetterman’s Colbert video below. Once a population of 18,000 in the 1950’s, Fetterman’s focus is on the youth of the town of Braddock and surrounding areas.

The average house price in Braddock is about $6,200.00, and there are many for sale and waiting for those with entrepreneurial spirits. The steel mill is still open and the town’s treasure, the Braddock Carnegie Free Library, a beautiful and timeless building, still graces the heart of the city.

John Fetterman Biography

John Fetterman, the six-foot, shaven-head, 325 pound Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania in Allegheny County, is 39 years old. He was born in York, PA where he was a high school offensive tackle. His parents still live there. He has assorted degrees, including a Masters from Harvard in Public Policy. He is the personification of America’s generous spirit and personal philanthropy through actions and deeds. Mayor Fetterman is a Democrat, and a successful community organizer in the truest sense of the term.

You can say that his political career began with his efforts to engage the youth of the small town of Braddock. He volunteered with the Americorps’ youth programs. Mid-2001, he started his own program to help area drop-outs earn GED’s and find jobs. He officially moved to Braddock in 2003.

In 2005 he ran for Mayor, defeated the two-term incumbent and life-long resident of Braddock, and won by one vote after a recount – a vote from one of the younger Braddock voters, he says. His salary is $150.00 a month. His passion is creating a wholesome environment for the younger, and especially “dislocated” residents of Braddock. He has converted overgrown lots to gardens, built basketball courts, rescued the city’s only skyscraper, the eight story Ohringer Building, and converted it to an artist colony. He opened a youth center and, he says, he is comfortable bridging the gap between the old and young.

Fetterman’s mayoral website, which he launched and funded himself, says he has three goals for the betterment of Braddock: improve the quality of life for the younger residents, attract “the kind of outside energy, ideas and interest from the artistic, urbanist, and creative communities,” and “subvert the $2.4 billion Mon-Fayette Expressway designed to run through the middle of Braddock.” Braddock is technically a borough, which also has a borough council and a borough Council President, with whom, Mayor Fetterman shares responsibility for Braddock.

Fetterman is more than a little serious about his job as Mayor. If you have seen him on television, you noticed the emboldened tattoos on his forearms. These tattoos bear no graphics, like hearts or snakes coiled around a staff, or a woman’s name. He began with a tattoo of his the city’s zip code on his left forearm: 15104. Then, there came the murders. He tattooed the date of each on his right forearm. He says “I’d rather keep them on my arm than in my head.”

In this once vibrant steel town, where Andrew Carnegie built his first steel mill, Fetterman purchased a rundown warehouse for $2,000.00. Located across the street from the pride of the city, the 1887 Braddock Carnegie Free Library, the warehouse became his home. The Braddock Library was the first of Andrew Carnegie’s 1,500 libraries around the country.

While the town structures exceed the dilapidated state, Mayor Fetterman says he does not see his town through rose-colored glasses. “This isn’t Mayberry. Braddock will never be what it once was.” But he says “We’re not distressed, we’re experimental.” Fetterman’s strategy is to get the town into the “urban mix,” saying that residents can create their own opportunities in Braddock.

John Fetterman and his father, the owner of a commercial insurance agency in the Mayor’s hometown of York, PA, have invested in more than just the Mayor’s warehouse “home.” They purchased a former Presbyterian church and converted it to a community center, and an adjoining house and duplex refurbished to a group home for six 18-year-olds.

Fetterman’s claims that opportunity lies in Braddock have not fallen on deaf ears. The Gustafson’s were living in Chicago, where Erik Gustafson was a part-time commodities trader. He and his wife Shannon purchased a two bedroom house, even after warning that the property was blighted with black mold. They paid $4,750.00 for the property, successfully treated the mold. Erik is a graphic designer and Shannon is a photographer. In Braddock, they say they can afford to focus on their hobbies.

A furniture maker bought a 15,000 square foot car dealership and converted it into a furniture showroom, workshop and home, with a greenhouse on the roof. The conversion cost Joel Rice $70,000.00, far below the cost to do the same in his previous home in Oregon.

The city’s steel mill, U.S. Steel is still operating, and employes just under 1,000 workers – most of which no longer live in Braddock. You’ll notice on John Fetterman’s website, the name of the town on the banner is spelled “Braddocc.” This isn’t a typo. According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, which quotes Mayor Fetterman: “that’s a spelling used by local members of the Crips street gang; it appears here in homage to, rather than [in] horror of, those young Braddock residents.”

This year, Braddock is the setting for a feature film re-make of the pulitzer prize winning novel, The Road. The New York Times say the film is “set in a post-Armageddon America where food is so scarce that many survivors turned to cannibalism.”

Regardless of the film’s portrayal of a town in ruins, John Fetterman says, “Braddock’s malignant beauty consistently appeals to me, I can’t get over it.”

In the Colbert Nation video below, you’ll hear this Democrat Mayor, John Fetterman, talk about President Obama’s stimulus bill and the need for government aid for Braddock, PA. For now, the town of Braddock PA is Mayor John Fetterman’s biography.




John Fetterman 50Braddock Library 25John Fetterman 53
John Fetter, Braddock Gallery (Photos)





John Fetterman and Braddock (Video)




Mayor John Fetterman (Video)