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Mayoral winner promises changes

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, November 8, 2011

As Democrat Pete Buttigieg celebrated an easy victory in South Bend’s mayoral election Tuesday, he called students to take ownership of the city and work with the local government to solve its problems.

Buttigieg was a favorite since the spring primary and defeated Republican Wayne Curry and Libertarian Patrick Farrell.

“When I entered this race in January, not many people believed that a young man with a funny name who had never held office before could earn the confidence of a community at a turning point,” Buttigieg said in his victory speech. “But together we have shown that South Bend can transcend old barriers, move beyond old habits and take a chance on a new way forward.”

As he addressed the crowd at South Bend’s West Side Democratic Club, Buttigieg said his victory begins “a different kind of campaign.”

“Now we have to turn our attention to a new kind of campaign, not a campaign for a candidate, but a campaign for our city, a campaign to make our city stronger and better and safer and cleaner,” he said.

Buttigieg said an immediate focus would be economic development.

“We are going to gather the leadership of this community to deliver a new economic direction, building on our greatest strengths true to our tradition but looking for new sources of wealth and income and prosperity,” he said. “We must take new risks and create new opportunities. We must, we can, we will, and it all starts tonight.”

Notre Dame and its students can play a critical role in the city’s development, Buttigieg told The Observer.

“I really need students to get involved,” he said. “In order for our city to move forward, we need to harness the brain power and the energy and the labor of Notre Dame students who should really feel ownership of this city, whether they grew up here or not.”

Buttigieg said the University’s recent efforts to engage with the local community are a step in the right direction.

“It starts one-on-one,” Buttigieg said. “I’m going to be on campus frequently talking about some of the ways we can work together, and I’m going to be as receptive as I can be to student perspectives and University perspectives. We really need each other to succeed. One of the things I love about my timing is that the University has this newfound interest in engaging with the city, and I can’t wait to take them up on that.”

While the College Republicans Club said it did not contribute to Curry’s campaign, many Notre Dame students worked with Buttigieg leading up to his election.  

Senior Matt LaFortune worked on Buttigieg’s staff as the field director for his campaign. He worked with Congressman Joe Donnelly’s campaign efforts last year and joined the Buttigieg campaign in August.

“I helped organize the volunteer activities because we had a lot of volunteers interested in helping with Pete’s campaign,” LaFortune said.

LaFortune, a South Bend native, said his responsibilities included organizing volunteers as they placed calls and canvased throughout the city.

“The best part was being able to get to know a guy like Pete,” LaFortune said. “He is really going to bring a lot of change to South Bend … Being an ND student and also being from South Bend, I wanted to see a fresh start for this city, and I think Pete is going to do that.”

A group of students from College Democrats were also active in the campaign efforts. Club members helped with phone calls and door-to-door campaign visits.

College Democrats president Mike O’Brien said Buttigieg visited club meetings on several occasions, including one of the club’s first meetings of the year, to talk about the November election.

“Being the mayor is a tough job, but his demeanor is one that, as it showed tonight, attracted a lot of people,” O’Brien said. “He has a lot of energy.”

O’Brien said Buttigieg’s character throughout the campaign was an example for his own goals in politics.

“Sometimes people talk about connections or money being the key to getting into politics,” O’Brien said. “Pete shows that being really passionate and having a lot of energy is actually what matters … if you are passionate and willing to make a difference, that shows through in your demeanor.”

Sophomore Maria Wilson, a College Democrats member, said she helped with canvasing efforts for the Buttigieg campaign.

“I think it is important to foster a great relationship with the community, and I think Pete will be a great mayor,” Wilson said.

Even though Wilson is a not a native of South Bend, she said local politics should still matter to students on campus.

“I don’t think you can look at national politics or international politics if you don’t look at local politics too,” she said. “The local government affects us in our day-to-day lives.”