John Fetterman is an American politician and current Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, USA. He is renowned for leading an urban rejuvenation of the formerly depressed, post-industrial city.
The Reading, PA, native first arrived in Braddock in 2001 to work with AmeriCorps, an American volunteer organization. He ran for mayor in 2005, winning by a single vote in a three-candidate Democratic primary (He faced no opposition in the general election.) He had never held office before that.
Like many small towns and cities throughout the developed world, Braddock collapsed after the rise of globalization. Formerly an industrial town, it was economically decimated as jobs and factories began to move overseas. Despite being a robust city with a storied history for much of the twentieth century, Braddock lost 90% of its population. With the loss of economic opportunity, Braddock was beset by problems common in the post-industrial landscape: unemployment, drugs, disinvestment, and crime.
Fetterman’s approach was aggressive but fundamentally simple: he looked for opportunities to bring back hope and pride, beginning with a small, do-it-yourself approach, such as planting fruit trees, or making an outdoor pizza oven at of reclaimed bricks from an abandoned factory. He also offered up free studio space to artists in order to welcome in the ‘creative’ class.
His work in Braddock is an ongoing experiment; people are moving back into Braddock, and crime has decreased. While the work certainly doesn’t represent a panacea for post-industrial urban renewal, the arc of Braddock represents fundamental lessons about how to reinvent place, and meet the challenges brought on by globalization, even in the first world.