President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will appoint Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to head the Department of Transportation and add a younger generation voice to his team, said a person familiar with Mr. Biden’s reasoning .
Buttigieg, 38, fought fiercely to be nominated for the Democratic President, but bowed and approved of Mr. Biden. The two men banded together during the general election campaign and Mr Biden made it clear that he wanted to find a place for Mr Buttigieg in his administration.
If approved by the Senate, Mr. Buttigieg will be the first openly gay person to serve as cabinet secretary, breaking a barrier and contributing to Mr. Biden’s pledge to “make his government look like America”. Under President Trump, Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, served as deputy director of National Intelligence, a cabinet-level post. But he did not face confirmation from the Senate as acting leader.
“Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been open and honest about his identity throughout his time on the national scene. He gave our community a voice and a new vision of who and how our leaders can love,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human rights campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
As a Navy veteran, Mr. Buttigieg could have headed the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Mr Biden decided instead to hold him responsible for transportation, which will likely be an integral part of the government’s efforts to address climate change with aggressive emissions measures. Reuters reported earlier Mr. Biden’s choice of Mr. Buttigieg.
In his presidential bid, Mr Buttigieg turned out to be one of the Democratic Party’s most competent communicators, transforming himself from a small town mayor into a high profile presidential candidate.
While Mr Biden, like many others in the 2020 Democratic Presidency, was initially upset about Mr Buttigieg’s ambitions as President – and ahead of the New Hampshire primary diminished his mayoral experience In the revitalization of the South Bend sidewalks, the two drew closer to hold back the party’s more liberal competitors.
As a candidate, Mr Buttigieg was consistently in favor of the government taking strong steps to combat global warming. And his tenure as leader of a local ward gives him experience with the infrastructure needs of cities and counties, another major priority for Mr. Biden.
In the debates, it was Mr. Buttigieg who scratched with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, largely keeping Mr. Biden above the bout.
And when Mr Buttigieg ended his campaign after registering scant support from black voters in the South Carolina primary, the Biden campaign gave him his own promotional event – a plum that other rivals like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and the former Representative Beto O ‘was not granted. Rourke from Texas supporting Mr. Biden at a rally hours later.
If you become part of Mr Biden’s cabinet, Mr Buttigieg will be given a national seat from which to advance his future political career in the Democratic Party.
It will also enable him to apply some of the transit policy experience he gained during his time as mayor to national infrastructure-related challenges that have caused multi-year non-partisan frustration.
Mr Buttigieg, whose calling card as a presidential candidate was a claim to revitalized a dying city in the Midwest, made the transport corridors an early focus. Shortly after he was elected mayor in 2012, he set about transforming downtown South Bend through an initiative called Smart Streets, which aimed to reduce traffic, add bike lanes, and make certain areas more pedestrian-friendly.
After years of political resistance, investments in the infrastructure triggered a revitalization of the inner city. New loft conversions in hotels, retail and residential areas followed, and by the time Mr. Buttigieg stepped down in January, about 1,000 people had settled in downtown South Bend, compared to practically zero when he took office.
“Pete’s nomination marks a new milestone in a decade of efforts to ensure LGBTQ people are represented in our government – and its implications will extend well beyond the department he will head,” said Annise Parker, president of L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Institute, in a statement. “Most importantly, Pete put his intellect and energy into the Department of Transportation and our nation is better off as a result.”
Reid J. Epstein and Travel Gabriel Contribution to reporting.