Residents of Clairton, Duquesne, Lincoln, McKeesport, Munhall, South Versailles Twp., Versailles, Whitaker, White Oak and parts of West Mifflin will go to the polls on Jan. 23 to select a replacement for former state Rep. Marc Gergely. Tube City Almanac is profiling both of the candidates.
To read about Fawn Walker-Montgomery, click here.
Twenty-eight-year-old Austin Davis says he’s always been interested in service. “I’ve always wanted to be helpful,” says Davis of his interest in politics.
At 16, he was chairman of the Mayor’s Youth Council in McKeesport. “There were not a lot of people that looked like me in terms of diversity,” says Davis, who is African American.
Then—and now—Davis says he would ask himself: “What’s the best way to give back? How can I make the community a better place?”
Davis says running for office was a natural step toward taking public service to the next level for the people he cares about.
As the top aide for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald since 2012, Davis has been involved in key discussions at the highest levels of county government.
“If it comes across the county executive’s desk, it comes across my desk, as well,” Davis says. “I’m carrying out the vision that the county executive has set.”
And that includes working with county council members, serving on numerous boards and assisting with proposed legislation on numerous public policy issues. “I’m a jack of all trades,” Davis says.
While Davis says that he loves the work he’s been doing over the past six years, when he asked himself, “Will I be more effective working in the county executive’s office or more as a state legislator?” he decided it was time to move on.
Davis notes that he has worked with state legislators on numerous issues, including funding for public transit and more service at Pittsburgh International Airport. “There’s no learning curve for me,” Davis says.
State Sen. Jim Brewster calls Davis engaging and bright. “He’s as good as it gets,” says Brewster, former mayor of McKeesport. “He recognizes that he’s supposed to represent everybody … We couldn’t have a better candidate.”
Among the biggest challenges facing the 35th District today are jobs, education, transportation and public safety, according to Davis. A lack of good paying jobs, he says, is the number one problem in the district.
“The next state representative has to be an advocate for creating more jobs,” Davis says. “We have to pitch the assets we have in this region and the benefits of the Mon Valley.
On the education front, Davis notes that the majority of the school districts in the 35th District are among the worst in the state.
“Our state does not adequately fund public education, and we have to reform charter school (funding). It’s killing our school districts,” says Davis, who notes that he is a product of public schools.
Davis sees Port Authority's proposed Bus Rapid Transit loop as being beneficial to the region, although activist groups such as Pittsburghers for Public Transit say it will mean a reduction in service to Braddock and Duquesne.
If elected, Davis would like to serve on the legislature's transportation committee and work to increase funding for mass transit.
Among Davis’ proudest professional accomplishments has been working on Allegheny County's Public Health Commission on Preventing Violence & Promoting Community Mental Health.
“That’s having a real impact in the Mon Valley and other struggling communities,” Davis says.
Education: McKeesport High School, 2008; B.A., political science, University of Pittsburgh, 2012
Career: Executive assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; vice chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee
Lynne Glover is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh's East End.
Originally published January 08, 2018.