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27-year old mayor of Pittsburgh
shows gravitas beyond his years

By Andrew Stevens

8 November 2009: Born in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan won his first presidential election, at 27, Pittsburgh's mayor Luke Ravenstahl is nationally known as the youngest city leader of any major city in American history. Having assumed office under the city charter as council president following the death of the incumbent mayor, Ravenstahl was elected to his first term in November 2007 and re-elected in November 2009.

Update November 2013: Bill Peduto elected as mayor in the 5 November mayoral elections.

The mayor's age has inevitably led to media comments about the city having a baby-faced mayor, though Ravenstahl's serious demeanour and grounding in politics (his father a judge and his grandfather a state representative) displays gravitas beyond his years.

However, his future political career was evident even earlier. Ravenstahl graduated from a Catholic high school in 1998 (he remains a weekly churchgoer), where he excelled in sports and served as school council president. He then studied at nearby Washington & Jefferson College, where he continued his sports captaincies and obtained a bachelors in business administration.

Following graduation Ravenstahl worked as an account manager for a courier, before standing for the city council and successfully beating the incumbent, just four months after graduation. Ravenstahl was elected council president after only two years on the council and had already begun to direct its administration once Mayor Bob O'Connor was diagnosed terminally ill.

As a result of his elevation, Ravenstahl will face a general election in November 2007, as decided by the local electoral commission.  In May he faced his first electoral test in the city primary, receiving the highest number of votes in the city’s history.  Since his elevation to the mayoralty, Ravenstahl has promoted a ‘Neighbourhoods first’ approach to quality of life issues, as well as pushing for a return to beat cop policing.  He also convened a summit of Pennsylvanian mayors to discuss how to tackle budget deficits across the state.

Pittsburgh is noted for its strong performance in national liveability indices, the only big city to score highly across all, owing to its low cost of living, low crime rate and cultural vibrancy.  In 2005 it was ranked joint top in the US (alongside Cleveland) by The Economist and 26th worldwide.  Traditionally the city has been host to large German, Polish and Irish communities, which led to its distinctive dialect.  Pittsburgh has the highest number of Croat residents outside of Croatia, as well as higher than average concentrations of other Balkan nations.

The city has been heavily Democrat (registrations currently run at five Democrats to each Republican in the city) since the Great Depression era, with the mayor and nine-member council elected to four yearly terms of office.

The mayor has faced a degree of controversy in the recent past following a drunken altercation with a police officer in 2005 and his accepting sponsorship for a golf tournament in June 2007.

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