In this interview, South Bend, Indiana, mayor Peter Buttigieg discusses how his administration used innovation and technology to improve municipal government. He explains how his background in consulting informed his use of data to make government more effective and speaks about how civic innovation can help solve the toughest problems his community faces in the face of serious financial constraints, including a state-wide property tax cap. He hired Santiago Garces, a young Notre Dame graduate, to create an innovation office that helped implement the mayor’s biggest policy priorities, including dealing with the city’s many vacant and abandoned properties. He lauds the performance of the city’s business analysts, who worked with city departments to identify problems in their business processes and help them become more efficient and effective. Buttigieg also talks about dealing with internal resistance to new policies. He advises other cities to build partnerships with external actors that can help them harness data and innovation and discusses the importance of government employees having a results mentality, as opposed to a compliance mentality.
Peter Buttigieg was born in South Bend in 1982, the son of Notre Dame professors. In 2000 he enrolled at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy and political science. After graduating in 2004, he worked on the presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry and for the Cohen Group, a business advisory firm. He then received a Rhodes Scholarship to study philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Oxford, where he graduated in 2007. He returned to the United States to work at the Chicago office of McKinsey & Co., the global management consulting firm, where he worked on energy and grocery pricing. He left McKinsey in 2010 to campaign full-time for Indiana state treasurer. He was the Democratic Party’s nominee, but lost the general election to his Republican challenger by a large margin. The next year, he entered a crowded field to replace South Bend’s outgoing Democratic mayor. He won the election in November 2011 and took office in 2012 at age 30, at the time the youngest mayor of any city with a population over 100,000. He won reelection in 2015 with more than 80% of the vote. In 2017, he ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee, the national governing body of the Democratic Party. He withdrew prior to the final vote, but the race elevated his national profile and encouraged media speculation that he might run for president.