Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg ( BUUT-ih-jij; born January 19, 1982) is an American politician and former U.S.
Buttigieg was elected mayor of South Bend in the November 2011 election, with 74% of the vote. He took office in January 2012 at age 29, becoming the second-youngest mayor in South Bend history—Schuyler Colfax III became mayor at age 28 in 1898 —and the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents.
In 2000 Buttigieg was valedictorian of his high school senior class at St. Joseph High School in South Bend. That year, he won first prize in the JFK Profiles in Courage essay contest awarded by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. He traveled to Boston to accept the award and met Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy's family. Buttigieg's winning subject was the integrity and political courage demonstrated by U.S. congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of only two independent politicians in Congress.
Upon graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in 2004, Buttigieg was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and in 2007 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with first-class honors in philosophy, politics and economics from Pembroke College, Oxford.
In 2007, while volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Buttigieg was influenced to join the military after seeing the disparities between communities that were missing large amounts of young people due to military service and those that had barely any serving.
In 2009, Buttigieg became an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve and trained to become a naval intelligence officer. He deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014. While deployed, Buttigieg was part of a unit assigned to identify and disrupt terrorist finance networks. Part of this was done at Bagram Air Base, but he also worked as an armed driver for his commander on over 100 trips into Kabul. Buttigieg has jokingly called this role "military Uber", because he had to watch out for ambushes and explosive devices along the roads and make sure the vehicle was guarded. In order to better communicate with Afghans, he also taught himself to speak some Dari (a variety of the Persian language). Buttigieg was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2017.
Buttigieg was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer of Indiana in 2010. He received 37.5% of the vote, losing to Republican incumbent Richard Mourdock.
In 2012 Buttigieg demoted South Bend police chief Darryl Boykins after a federal investigation found that the police department had improperly recorded telephone calls. He also fired the police department's communications director, who had "discovered the recordings but continued to record the line at Boykins' command". The police communications director alleged that the recordings captured four senior police officers making racist remarks and discussing illegal acts.
In a June 2015 piece in the South Bend Tribune, Buttigieg came out as gay. He also is the first openly gay presidential candidate for the Democratic Party and the second overall, after Fred Karger, a Republican, ran in 2012.
Buttigieg taught himself to speak a measure of Norwegian and has some knowledge of Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari Persian, and French in addition to his native English, though his level of fluency in those languages is unclear. His campaign has not commented on his language abilities, but he has been recorded speaking foreign languages on various occasions, including interviews on Univision on May 8, 2019 and Telemundo on May 20, 2019. Buttigieg plays guitar and piano, and in 2013 performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist with Ben Folds. Buttigieg was a 2014 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow. He was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Fenn Award in 2015.
In 2013, Buttigieg proposed a "Smart Streets" urban development program to improve South Bend's downtown area, and in early 2015—after traffic studies and public hearings—he secured a bond issue for the program backed by tax increment financing. "Smart Streets" was aimed at improving economic development and urban vibrancy as well as road safety. The project involved the conversion of one-way streets in downtown to two-way streets; traffic-calming measures; the widening of sidewalks; streetside beautification (including the planting of trees and installation of decorative brickwork); the addition of bike lanes; and the introduction of roundabouts. Elements of the project were finished in 2016, and it was officially completed in 2017. The project was credited with spurring private development in the city.
Buttigieg was named mayor of the year for 2013 by GovFresh.com, tying with third-term New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg. In 2014 The Washington Post called Buttigieg "the most interesting mayor you've never heard of" based on his youth, education, and military background. In 2016 New York Times columnist Frank Bruni published a column praising his work as mayor with a headline asking if he might be "the first gay president".
In 2014, Buttigieg announced that he would seek a second term. He won the Democratic primary with 78% of the vote, defeating Henry Davis Jr., the city councilman from the Second District. In November 2015 he was elected to his second term as mayor with over 80% of the vote, defeating Republican Kelly Jones.
Buttigieg served for seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, returning to the United States on September 23, 2014. While deployed, he was assigned to the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a counterterrorism unit that targeted Taliban insurgency financing. In his absence, Deputy Mayor Mark Neal, South Bend's city comptroller, served as executive from February 2014 until Buttigieg returned to his role as mayor in October 2014.
Buttigieg has written that his initial decision to reappoint Boykins (the city's first ever African-American police chief) was his "first serious mistake as mayor". Boykins sued the city for racial discrimination over being demoted by the mayor, arguing that the taping policy existed under previous police chiefs, who were white. Buttigieg opted to settle the suits brought by Boykins, the communications director, and the four officers out of court, resulting in the city's spending over $800,000 on out-of-court settlements. In 2015 a federal judge ruled that Boykins's recordings violated the Federal Wiretap Act. Buttigieg came under pressure from political opponents to release the tapes, but said that doing so would be a violation of the Wiretap Act. He called for the eradication of racial bias in the police force. An Indiana court is hearing a case for the release of the tapes.
In 2015, during the controversy over Indiana Senate Bill 101—the original version of which was widely criticized for allowing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people—Buttigieg emerged as a leading opponent of the legislation, and shortly thereafter came out as gay to express his solidarity.
As mayor, Buttigieg was a leading figure behind the creation of a nightly laser-lighting display along downtown South Bend's St. Joseph River trail as public art. The project cost $700,000, which was raised from private funds. The "River Lights" installation was unveiled in May 2015, as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebrations. Under Buttigieg, South Bend launched a $50-million investment in the city's parks, many of which had been neglected during the preceding decades.
In December 2017 Buttigieg announced his engagement to Chasten Glezman, a junior high school teacher; they had been dating since August 2015 after meeting on the dating app Hinge. They were married on June 16, 2018, in a private ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James. As of April 2019 Chasten also uses his spouse's surname.
One of Buttigieg's signature programs has been the "Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative" (known locally as "1,000 Properties in 1,000 Days"), a project to repair or demolish blighted properties across South Bend. The goal was reached by the program's scheduled end date in November 2015.
In January 2017 Buttigieg announced his candidacy for chair of the Democratic National Committee in its 2017 chairmanship election. He "built a national profile as an emerging dark horse in the race for the chairmanship with the backing of former DNC chairman Howard Dean", former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, Indiana senator Joe Donnelly and North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp. Buttigieg "campaigned on the idea that the aging Democratic Party needed to empower its millennial members".
Buttigieg favors renewed U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement. In June 2017, he was one of 407 U.S. mayors who signed a pact to adhere to the agreement after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from it. Buttigieg also supports the Green New Deal proposed by House Democrats
Buttigieg is pro-choice. In 2018, as mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg vetoed a zoning exception application for the pro-life Women's Care Center to be situated next to Whole Women's Health Alliance, which provides abortions. The Women's Care Center eventually found an alternate location in South Bend. Even though the South Bend Common Council supported the rezoning exception, Buttigieg said, “I don’t think it would be responsible to situate two groups literally right next to each other... that have diametrically opposed views on the most divisive social issue of our time.” He also expressed concern that such buildings next to each other may be conducive to one side harassing the other.
In December 2018, Buttigieg announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor of South Bend.
In 2019 Buttigieg said he was "troubled" by the commutation of Iraq War whistleblower Chelsea Manning's sentence and gave a mixed evaluation of Edward Snowden's actions, saying that "we've learned things about abuses and that one way or another that needed to come out" but that "the way for that to come out is through Congressional oversight, not through a breach of classified information."
In January 2019, following Juan Guaidó's self-declaration as interim president of Venezuela, Buttigieg told HuffPost that he supported free and fair elections and imposing sanctions on the country but opposed military intervention.
On January 23, 2019, Buttigieg announced that he was creating an exploratory committee for a candidacy for President of the United States in the 2020 election. Buttigieg is seeking the Democratic nomination. If elected, he would be the youngest and the first openly gay American president. He officially launched his campaign on April 14, 2019, in South Bend.
In May 2019, after the Alabama Legislature passed the Human Life Protection Act outlawing almost all abortions in the state, Buttigieg said it was "ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women."
After a white South Bend police officer shot and killed an African-American man in June 2019, Buttigieg was drawn from his presidential campaign to focus on the emerging public reaction. On June 23 he presided over a town hall attended by disaffected activists from the African-American community as well as relatives of the deceased man. The local police union accused Buttigieg of making decisions for political gain.
He also supports expanding opportunities for national service and has said that he is open to making a yearlong term of national service mandatory for those turning 18 years old. "One thing we could do ... would be to make it, if not legally obligatory, then certainly a social norm that anybody after they're 18 years old spends a year in national service", he said. In July 2019 Buttigieg announced a plan to increase participation in national service organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, as well as creating new ones dedicated to “fighting climate change, treating mental health and addiction, and providing caregiving for older people”. The initiative prioritizes volunteering in predominantly minority communities and rural areas by tripling programs to 250,000 people at first, then expanding to one million by 2026.
In July 2019, Buttigieg shared his Douglass Plan, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to address systemic racism in America. Announcing it at a Chicago meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH civil rights organization, Buttigieg compared the plan's scope to that of the U.S.'s Marshall Plan, which invested funds in war-torn Europe after World War II, and said it would address "opportunity for minority businesses, strengthening voting rights, and reforming the criminal justice system." The initiative allocates $10 billion to African-American entrepreneurship over five years, grants $25 billion to historically black colleges, legalizes marijuana, expunges records of drug convictions, halves the federal prison population, and passes a federal New Voting Rights Act designed to increase voting access.