Biden Transition News, Secretary of Transportation, December 15, 2020

WHAT

On Tuesday, December 15, President-elect Biden announced Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg is best known as the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana before rising to prominence as one of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Buttigieg won the tightly contested Iowa caucus, before dropping out and endorsing Joe Biden. Buttigieg was the first openly gay person to win a presidential primary or caucus as well as the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate.

Buttigieg served as mayor of South Bend from 2012 through 2020. As mayor, Buttigieg spearheaded initiatives to make urban transit and living more accessible and safer. Buttigieg faced criticism for his management of the police department, including a decision to request the resignation of the city’s first African American police chief.[1] Buttigieg assumed the office at 29, making him the second youngest mayor of South Bend in history.

Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017, reaching the rank of lieutenant. In 2014, Buttigieg deployed to Afghanistan for seven months while Mayor of South Bend.  Before running for Mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer of Indiana. Buttigieg earned 37.5% of the vote. He ran for Mayor of South Bend the following year.

Prior to joining the reserves, Buttigieg worked for McKinsey, consulting for clients including Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield and Best Buy, as well as federal agencies including the EPA, the DOD, the Department of Energy, and the Postal Service.

During the 2020 campaign, Buttigieg released an infrastructure plan that proposed spending $1 trillion over the next 10 years to create 6 million jobs and improve public transportation, roads, and bridges, as well as preparing communities for natural disasters. His campaign also called for a “Vision Zero” policy to eliminate traffic deaths. See his campaign infrastructure platform attached.

Buttigieg graduated from Harvard University, before being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford.

IMPACT

Buttigieg’s selection is likely based both on his political skills and his long courtship to the infrastructure community throughout the 2020 presidential campaign. The Buttigieg selection is being met with approval from a wide range of key constituencies; private industry stakeholders, nonprofits, and progressive groups have lauded the pick.

Buttigieg clearly appreciates the importance of infrastructure. During the 2020 primary, Buttigieg released one of the most detailed transportation policy plans of any candidate in the race.

As Transportation Secretary, we can expect Buttigieg to seek to restore the partnership between state and local leaders to upgrade and modernize our country’s aging infrastructure. Known for his effective communicating skills, Buttigieg will be a strong messenger for the Biden administration’s priorities. His background as a mayor will allow for some quick relationships to develop with mayors and governors across the country as he works to clear a backlog of projects that have stalled over political disagreements with the current administration. Beyond traditional investments in roads and bridges, we can expect Buttigieg to focus on investments in public transit and urban planning that emphasize pedestrian access.

RESOURCES

  1. Press Release via Biden Transition Website

[1] Smith, Michelle: “Buttigieg decision on police chief shadows presidential run.” Associated Press, January 16, 2020.