"We have a lot of council seats, school board seats, etc. that are open and those are the roles that directly impact our day to day life on a local level -- VOTE!"
In 2013, Marita Garrett answered a public call to help turn her community around by joining Borough council. After 4 years as a council member, she was elected mayor of Wilkinsburg at 31 and attributes her win to perseverance and a work ethic that doesn’t quit. A northeast Ohio native, a Pittsburgh leader and advocate, and a former Baltimore Ravens fan (we won’t hold that against her), Mayor Garrett is working to change the local narrative and make Wilkinsburg a community that is self-reliant and secure.
What brought you to Pittsburgh? My mom got a job with Duquesne University and I got accepted to Sewickley academy - so we moved to Pittsburgh in high school and then I stayed for undergrad at Pitt. I recognized quickly that there are so many ways to have your impact felt in a city like Pittsburgh and I think it’s important to be able to see your contributions in a community.
The current political climate at all levels of government is charged to say the least. How do you stay focused on your community and rise above all the noise? It actually feels easier to focus on my community locally and drown out all of the national politics to concentrate on sustainability in Wilkinsburg. I am able to continue pursuing programming that I started as a council member the past few years, but can now elevate issues to a bigger stage as mayor. I’ve also been able to address gun violence as a public health epidemic and work closely with the police department and the county health department for violence prevention.
What advice do you have for young people looking to engage in politics? Don’t wait your turn. Be confident and be prepared to dedicate yourself to your community and public service as an elected official. As a citizen, VOTE! It’s the easiest way to engage and be involved in what’s happening in yourcommunity. We have a lot of council seats, school board seats, etc. that are open NOW and those are the roles that directly impact our day to day life on a local level– air, water quality, safety, transportation, and education, among others.
What should people know about the Borough of Wilkinsburg? One of the things I work toward as mayor is recalibrating the local perception ofWilkinsburg. We have really transformed over the years and are continuing to make progress in education, local business development, and housing. We’re only 2.2 square miles so we’re small, but we’re dense, and it’s likely you’ve been here without realizing it. Come visit us and see what we’re about!
Here’s where you get to rep yourcommunity! What are some great activities or restaurants that Pittsburghers should check out in Wilkinsburg? It’s hard to play favorites because we have a lot of great spots, but Salvatore’s Pizza House, hands down, has the best wings in Pittsburgh – you heard it here! Soul Food Connection for comfort food and Madeline’s Bakery and Bistro, new inthe last year, has amazing chocolate croissants.
As far as downtown, anything the Cultural Trust or the Pittsburgh Symphony puts on is fantastic. I’m a huge supporter of their programming and it’s a great way to escape because they put on such a diverse set of programming. We’re fortunate to have so many theaters, arts and culture programs that are accessible in a city our size. If you can’t find me in Wilkinsburg, you can probably find me at a show or when I have a spare moment, taking a nap.