When Lou Mavrakis graduated from high school six decades ago, he went to work in a local steel mill. He earned a good wage and built a sturdy middle class life. That’s the way things worked in Monessen, a small city along the Monongahela River 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.
Mavrakis, now 79, is the mayor today of a very different place. Monessen's population has dropped from 18,000 in 1960 to 7,500 in 2015, the local tax base has dried up, and the city's major steel mill closed in the 1980s.