EDITORIAL: Give Fetterman a listen

York Dispatch

John Fetterman does not look like your average U.S. Senate candidate.

York County native John Fetterman is hoping to become the next U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

He's a mountain of a man at 6 feet, 8 inches and 320 pounds. He features a shaved head, a goatee and tattoos on both arms. And he's rarely seen in anything other than a short-sleeve work shirt and cargo shorts.

He's not going to remind anyone of Republican Pat Toomey, but that's the man that Fetterman hopes to unseat in the next Pennsylvania Senate election.

The 46-year-old Fetterman has been called an unlikely, unconventional long shot — labels he dismisses as meaningless. But one label he can't shake is this: York County native. Fetterman grew up in Springettsbury Township and attended Central York High School.

That's why Fetterman's campaign has generated more than a little interest in these parts. In fact, Dallastown High School graduate Ben Kline, a former linebacker at Penn State, has already committed to work on Braddock's campaign. Kline is well known as a civic-minded young man who has excelled in the classroom and has also devoted loads of time to community work.

Yorkers will soon be able to get an up-close and personal look at Fetterman. He's planning a free campaign event at the Holy Hound Taproom at 57 W. Market St. in York at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.

It should be an event worth checking out, no matter your political persuasion. Yes, Fetterman is a Democrat and a progressive, and this is generally a Republican and conservative area, but Fetterman still has a fascinating story to tell.

He played football at Albright before eventually earning a masters in public policy from Harvard, so the man is seriously smart. After working in the insurance industry for a bit, he had a life-changing experience when a friend was killed in a car accident while on the way to meet Fetterman. After that, Fetterman decided to dedicate his life to helping the less fortunate. He quit his job and joined AmeriCorps, a volunteer civil service organization.

Eventually, he found his way to Braddock, a former bustling steel-mill town near Pittsburgh that had fallen on desperately hard times. He ran for mayor of Braddock in 2005, winning by a single vote, and he's kept the job ever since. A New York Times article even described him as "America's coolest mayor."

He and wife, Gisele, also operate the Free Store in Braddock, a charitable institution that gives free supplies to the needy.

Fetterman has tried his best to revitalize Braddock, which has seen its population plummet from more than 20,000 to around 2,000. He's enjoyed some successes there, but the town still has a long road to recovery. Fetterman's commitment to Braddock, however, can't be questioned. It can be seen every day on his arms. He has the town's zip code tattooed on one arm, while the other arm features tattoos of the dates of every Braddock murder since he became mayor.

Now Fetterman would like to serve the entire state. His chances of winning are still relatively remote, but it's obvious he has something important to say.

Come Feb. 2, Yorkers should check him out and judge for themselves.