Pete Buttigieg’s Vibe: Hopeful, vibrant — I did my homework early

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at the Exeter Town Hall Friday night. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

Personification of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s appearance at Exeter Town Hall Friday night came in the form of three young women from Londonderry.

High school seniors who are college-bound: Boston College, the University of Virginia, Northeastern. This trio was encouraged by their history teacher to learn more of Pete’s policies and ideas.

Ashley Lynne, Hailey Robbins, Emily Hatem of Londonderry showed up for Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s stump speech at Exeter Town Hall Friday. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

When asked if they were getting extra credit for attendance, they admitted they were not. They were simply interested and excited about Pete, his youth, his status as a millennial, his exuberance.

Hopeful, exuberant and “no extra credit” needed was the vibe of Pete Buttigieg’s visit to Exeter on a warm spring night in May. And a Friday night at the beginning of a three-day weekend brought more than 600 people to a standing-room-only venue. The line outside the town hall was long – filled not only by those who attended proms in the past few weeks but with those whose proms did not involve WiFi or the Internet.

Mayor Pete meets supporters Friday at Exeter Town Hall. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

Pete invited those who probably did not need the extra-credit in high school along with the desperate, “can I just do something to pass, please?” – the vibe felt excited, hopeful, smart and — according to Kathy Holland of Sandown,  a lifelong Republican — “thirsty for some intelligence.”

Pete is not a tall drink of water, rather, a pretty compact, engaging, personable 37-year-old.  He’s fresh, energetic, a staid Midwesterner, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The crowd at Exeter Town Hall Friday night to see Mayor Pete. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

His crowd was a cross-section of hair color and heads: dyed, natural, bald, white, black, blond, ombre.

The diverse group of people who stood on the stage behind Buttigieg were hand-picked as they waited in line. They were coached when to cheer, and when to hold up their PETE 2020 signs.

The group standing behind Mayor Pete at Friday’s stump speech at Exeter Town Hall. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

The vibe of the night felt safe, felt confident, felt orchestrated and contrived. Pete did not mention the name of the current leader of the free world, provided only subtle digs at Republicans, and offered nourishment to a very thirsty crowd.

He answered questions from a fishbowl, seemingly at random but obviously vetted.  He offered a safe, “no extra-credit needed because you already have 100s” kind of feel.

Supporter shows proper pronunciation of the candidate’s name. Photo/Susan Dromey Heeter

The Decoding of Pete’s Vibe?  Safe, nourishing, thoughtful, midwestern … slow and steady but solidly passing, because I did my homework as soon as it was assigned.

And I’m in class early. Do you need a pencil? I have an extra.

Pete Buttigieg – not sure how it’s pronounced? I’ve got that covered, too – “Boot-Edge-Edge.”

Decoding the Vibe, where I tell it like it really is as the first-in-the-nation primary parade of candidates comes to town. Join me behind the scenes where you might just find out what the candidate is really like. 

Susan Dromey Heeter is a regular columnist for