Mayor Tuerk was born in East Stroudsburg in 1975. He spent his first nine years under the watchful eye of his Pop-Pop and Mimi (an immigrant from Cuba) while his parents dedicated themselves to their education. In 1984, the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where his parents continued their studies. Daily life in a progressive college town taught him the value of equity and diversity. Mayor Tuerk's brilliant “second mom”, Nana Kathleen, reinforced that message, saying “value your whole self, be grateful for your blessings, and there is no difference in people simply because of color; racism is a human-generated distinction, cruel and wrong.
The Mayor's education after high school started in Philadelphia, where DIY punk rock and liberal arts education set the foundation for discovering the value of community and trusting people to develop ingenious solutions to the challenges that they face. Love and curiosity pushed him around the world over the next ten years, including stints in Bellingham, WA; Charleston, SC; Havana, Cuba; Columbia, SC; Managua, Nicaragua.
In South Carolina with his now-wife, Karen, he pursued his love of global commerce by completing his Bachelor of Science in International Business at the College of Charleston before earning an MBA at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
Mayor Tuerk had always wanted to return to his Eastern Pennsylvania roots, so in 2004, he and Karen moved to Allentown because they were attracted to the energy and diversity of the city. After taking time off to care for their two daughters, Karen became a lecturer in Environmental Science at Muhlenberg College in 2011. They have two daughters, Amelia and Margot.
In 2008, Mayor Tuerk took a position with the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) where he learned the power of building coalitions to solve problems. He helped to establish the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, which is a national coalition of cities dedicated to strengthening their manufacturing economies. He also worked diligently to develop resources at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, helping AEDC earn a grant from the Economic Development Administration and a visit from the US Secretary of Commerce in 2012. Additionally, he cofounded the Lehigh Valley’s first coworking space and first community-operated “hackerspace,” where individuals with shared creative pursuits can meet and collaborate.
In 2013, he joined Don Cunningham to transform the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). Starting as the Director of Research and Innovation, he led a data initiative to contextualize the region’s economy for local stakeholders and national developers. As Vice President of Administration, he rebuilt LVEDC’s internal systems and finances, and established a Salesforce platform for managing economic development projects.
After becoming LVEDC’s Vice President of Economic Development in 2015, he led the group in attracting billions of dollars in economic growth in the Lehigh Valley and creating thousands of jobs for its residents. His success in this role led him to become the nationally known spokesperson for economic development in the Lehigh Valley. LVEDC was recognized as a Top 20 Economic Development Organization by Site Selection magazine in 2019, and then again in 2020.
In 2020, Matt stepped down from his position at LVEDC to run for Mayor. He hopes to bring his fresh ideas and experience to the city, build coalitions, and serve all of Allentown’s residents with a government that reflects the city’s incredible diversity.
In his spare time, Mayor Tuerk is a lover of languages and a runner of marathons. He speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and French, and has spent the past three years learning Chinese. His next challenge is Arabic. He began running marathons in 2013 and has completed the distance 18 times, including New York and Chicago. He has run in the Boston Marathon twice, and his personal best of 3:06 in Chicago makes him eligible for the 2021 Boston Marathon.