Mayor Pete talks family and fame with NewsCenter 16's Joshua Short

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - As South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg began to gain nationwide popularity, the now-presidential hopeful was also suffering a personal loss.

“I lost my dad within a few days when we launched this effort in January,” Buttigieg explained.

His father, Joseph Buttigieg, was a chaired professor of English and retired director of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program at the University of Notre Dame.

“It’s been strange to do it without him, because there are so many moments I would want to call him or send an article to him or see what he thinks about something,” Buttigieg added.

Joseph Buttigieg’s last words to his son were, "It’s been a good trip."

Now, Pete Buttigieg is leading his own trip, traveling from state to state, appearing on TV shows and radio shows, hoping to spread his message.

“I think we’re in a moment where people are looking for something completely different, and nothing could be more different than the presidency that we have now, than somebody like me, with just a different style, different focus, different issues in mind and a different background,” he said.

Included in that different background is being openly gay. The mayor told NewsCenter 16’s Joshua Short about his supportive husband, Chasten Buttigieg, and their family.

“The family that is here with us, Chasten and his folks, my mother and my father’s relatives, they’re all helping, reminding me who I am,” Buttigieg said in his first local TV interview since officially launching his 2020 campaign.

Staying grounded in his Hoosier values has never been more important, as Buttigieg becomes a bona fide national figure.

“As all of these heady things happen, I am finding myself in these crazy situations, people I think of as celebrities in line to take a photo sometimes,” the mayor said.

He added: “Making sure that doesn’t go to my head, because there’s some people in my life who have loved me from the beginning, who’ll love me on my way up and love me on my way right back down too.”

But for now, Buttigieg is still mayor, and he says this is not how he expected to spend his last year as the leader of his hometown.

“There have been so many surprises in our state, and certainly in our country, that have led us to this point, and to my surprise, as well as others, it turns out that what America really needs right now, at least in my view, is a new generational leadership, a voice from the industrial Midwest, someone who understands government but doesn’t come from the machinery in Washington, and suddenly we’re in the top tier of American presidential candidates,” Buttigieg said.