When Mr Buttigieg ended his campaign and endorsed Mr Biden, the former vice president gave him his own event in Dallas – a favor not given to other rivals like Ms Klobuchar and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who lent their support to Mr Biden at a campaign rally hours later. Mr Biden said at the time that Mr Buttigieg, who was first elected mayor at 29, reminded him of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
A former Navy fighter, Mr. Buttigieg could have headed the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Mr Biden instead decided to hand him over to transport, a choice previously reported by Reuters.
Mr Buttigieg, whose calling card as a presidential candidate was a claim for reviving his dying hometown of South Bend, has made infrastructure – and in particular, the city’s transport corridors – one the first objectives of his mandate.
Shortly after taking office in 2012, he set about transforming the city center, the key to which was an initiative he called “Smart Streets”. The existing traffic pattern of multi-lane one-way streets propelled drivers through the city’s retail and office canyons to suburban homes and stores.
Mr. Buttigieg restored two-way traffic and added bike lanes, trees and on-street parking, all intended to slow traffic and attract pedestrians.
Initially, the controversial $ 25 million project required dozens of town halls over two years before residents and South Bend City Council teamed up.
When completed, the investment sparked a revival of the city center. New hotels, commercial and residential conversions of lofts followed. Around 1,000 people had taken up residence in downtown South Bend by the time Mr Buttigieg left office in January this year, up from virtually zero when he started.
Mr Buttigieg is said to be one of the youngest cabinet members in history. Julián Castro was 39 when Mr. Obama appointed him housing secretary in 2014. Alexander Hamilton was in his thirties when he became the country’s first treasury secretary.
Trip Gabriel and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.