John Fetterman is weeks away from officially becoming Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, and the search for his replacement as Mayor of Braddock is equally close to its conclusion, borough officials say.
Six people applied to fill the role on an interim basis by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline, borough manager Deborah Brown told The Incline. Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Fetterman, did not apply, Brown confirmed.
Now that the applications are in, Brown said the next step involves scheduling interviews with the candidates. Those interviews will be conducted in the coming weeks by a committee comprised of Brown, Borough Council President Tina Doose and Borough Council Vice President Robert Parker.
The interim mayor appointment requires a majority vote by the six-member council, and Brown said all council members will have an opportunity to review the candidates’ applications before making their decisions.
The chosen applicant will fill out a portion of Mayor Fetterman’s remaining four-year term and will have to run to retain the office in next year’s primary and general election, Doose explained.
Brown said she hopes to have an interim mayor chosen and Fetterman’s resignation secured by Dec. 31. Before a replacement can be chosen, Brown explained, John Fetterman must resign or be sworn in as lieutenant governor. “Right now there’s no vacancy.”
Fetterman will be inaugurated as Pennsylvania lieutenant governor on Jan. 15. He won the November general election with Democratic incumbent governor Tom Wolf. The duo garnered 58 percent of the vote statewide.
Four of the six applicants now vying to replace John Fetterman as Braddock mayor were present at Tuesday’s borough council meeting. They are Chardaé Jones, 29; Rachelle Mackson, 57; Dominique Davis Sanders, 28; and Rev. Sheldon Stoudemire, 56.
Two more applicants, Pedro Valles and Isaac Bun, were not in attendance. A seventh person, Delia Lennon-Winstead, 63, said she mailed her application on Friday but borough officials said they hadn’t received it. Brown promised to search her records again. If the application arrives later this week, borough officials said they may still honor it, assuming the postmark predates Monday’s deadline.
Brown said all applicants for the position are residents of the borough as required. The list of applicants includes no current elected officials. Some are members of the borough’s Home Rule Charter Commission.
Candidates began lining up soon after Election Day.
Mackson declared her candidacy at the Nov. 13 council meeting, telling The Incline afterward, “[Mayor Fetterman] has done wonders. But I just think that you need to put more emphasis on people who are living in Braddock and let them have some kind of priority instead of keep bringing people in from the outside.”
The Post-Gazette listed Stoudemire as a supervisor at the Northside Common Ministries homeless shelter, a street minister and a social worker. Jones was described as a 2013 AmeriCorps alumnae and community volunteer who serves on Braddock’s home rule committee. Valles is a police officer in neighboring Rankin, Brown said. Lennon-Winstead said she serves as judge of elections in Braddock and is also a member of the borough’s Home Rule Charter Commission. Sanders identified himself as a “full cranial prothesis specialist.”
Brown said the number of people who applied is significant.
“I think it’s because we’ve been encouraging individuals to take a more active role in our community and probably they’re taking heed of what we’ve been telling them: that if you want to [shape] the process, you’ve got to be a part of the process.”
Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Fetterman, was floated as a possible mayoral successor with the family planning to remain in Braddock while John Fetterman serves as lieutenant governor. Gisele Fetterman is well-known in Braddock and beyond as the founder of Free Store 15104 and as half of the duos behind 412 Food Rescue and The Hollander Project, an incubator for female- and minority-owned businesses.
And while John Fetterman discussed — and some say lobbied for — the appointment of his wife as interim mayor during a closed-door conversation with council members this past summer, those members ultimately decided to open the process up to the public. They said Gisele Fetterman was welcome to apply with any other interested parties.
In a Nov. 20 phone call with The Incline, Robert Caruso, executive director of Pennsylvania’s State Ethics Commission, warned against a sitting mayor suggesting or urging a spouse’s appointment. “Those are the types of activities that border on conflicts of interest, although this sounds more like improper influence, and could pose a problem under the Ethics Act,” Caruso said. “It’s probably not the best practice to do that,” he added.
Asked last month if Gisele was still interested in becoming mayor of Braddock, John Fetterman said they were discussing “her role as [Pennsylvania’s] second lady, which is a bigger platform” and whether it’s “fair to have a splintered focus.”
On Tuesday, Brown confirmed Gisele Fetterman had not applied for the interim mayor position. That afternoon, Gisele posted a photo of her and Frances Wolf in the governor’s residence with the caption, “On Second Lady duty today with my wonderful First Lady.”