The truth about my tattoos…
I do not look like a typical politician, nor do I look like a typical person. I even lack the political metaphorical sleeves to roll up — all I ever wear are short-sleeve work shirts because hard work is the only way to build our communities back up.
I don’t mean to look scary, it’s just kind of what I have to work with. Maybe that’s why my tattoos are literally the first thing people Google about me.
Well enough, Googling. Today, I’ll tell you about my tattoos myself.
On my left arm, I have the zip code 15104. That’s Braddock, Pennsylvania, my home and the community I was honored to serve as mayor for 15 years. My wife Gisele and I are raising our kids here in Braddock, right across the street from Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill.
On my right arm, I have nine different dates. These are the dates when people were killed through violence in Braddock while I served as Mayor, starting in 2005. Seven out of nine were gun deaths. I actually have to get one more date added because, in June of 2018, there was another tragic loss of life.
My first tattoo came after January 16, 2006. It was my second week on the job as mayor after winning my election by a single vote. I received a call and was summoned to a police crime scene where a pizza delivery man had been robbed and killed by gun violence.
Every time Braddock lost someone was the worst feeling in the world. In a close-knit community like Braddock — which is home to around 2,000 people — it’s likely you know the victim and their family.
It’s an incredibly wrenching and personal experience as a mayor, but nothing compared to what the families have to go through.
In my 15 years as Mayor, I worked with the community to take on gun violence and other important issues that Braddock faced every day. I helped initiate youth and art programs for the students of our community and we worked together to create a community center.
We also worked to develop buildings that had been written off, kick-started our economy, and reduced deadly violence. My proudest moment as Mayor of Braddock is when our community went 5 ½ years without the loss of life due to gun violence.