Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, works on the 14th floor of the County-City Building, a faintly yellowed glass tower. The panoramic views are nothing to sneeze at; from the oval table beside his desk, Buttigieg can spot the hospital where he was born, the leafy middle-class neighborhood where he was raised and the Episcopal church where he worships most Sundays. Still, he concedes, “It’s not exactly luxury digs.”
During downpours, the 36-year-old Democrat has to yank his framed photographs off the window ledge or risk water damage. And right above his head, on the roof, live a pair of mating falcons. This past summer, Buttigieg had a naturalist tag their chicks in a City Hall conference room. (Four hatched; two survived.) “Occasionally, you’ll see a pigeon massacre,” he says. “I’ll be trying to pay attention and … you’ll just see feathers, like, drifting by, and guts going down outside the window.”
When Buttigieg moved back to South Bend a decade ago, the first place he rented was similarly shabby. Blue floors. Shag carpet. Bee hives. He can’t even show me the actual carriage house he lived in because his old landlord mercifully knocked it down. All it really had going for it was the location (a couple blocks from his mom and dad’s house) and the price (dirt cheap).
Deals can be had in Buttigieg’s hometown, a scrappy blue-collar city in north-central Indiana, 90 miles east of Chicago, best known as the home of the University of Notre Dame, where both of his parents taught.