President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will appoint Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., To lead the Department of Transportation, adding a younger generation voice to his team, said a person familiar with the deliberations of Mr. Biden.
Mr Buttigieg, 38, fought a fierce battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, but bowed and endorsed Mr Biden. The two bonded during the general election campaign and Mr Biden has made it clear he wants to find a place for Mr Buttigieg in his administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Buttigieg will be the first openly gay person to serve as Cabinet Secretary, breaking down a barrier and contributing to Mr Biden’s promise to make his administration ‘look like America’ . Under President Trump, Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, served as Acting Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet-level position. But he did not face confirmation from the Senate as interim leader.
“Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been open and honest about his identity throughout his time on the national stage, giving a voice to our community and a new vision of who and how our leaders can love,” said Alphonso David , president of Human Rights Campaign. , an LGBTQ advocacy group.
A former Navy fighter, Mr. Buttigieg could have headed the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Mr Biden has instead decided to put him in charge of transport, which will likely become a key part of the administration’s efforts to tackle climate change through aggressive actions on emissions. Reuters previously reported Mr. Biden’s choice of Mr. Buttigieg.
In his presidential bid, Mr. Buttigieg has proven to be one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled communicators, turning from a small town mayor into a top presidential candidate.
While Mr Biden, like many others in the 2020 Democratic presidential field, was initially annoyed by Mr Buttigieg’s presidential ambitions – and before the New Hampshire primary played down his experience as mayor in the South Bend sidewalks revitalization – but the two have come together in their sharing. effort to retain the party’s most liberal contenders.
As a candidate, Mr. Buttigieg has consistently advocated for the government to take strong action to tackle global warming. And his tenure as a local community leader gives him experience of the infrastructure needs of cities and counties, another key priority for Mr. Biden.
During the debates, it was Mr. Buttigieg who spoke to Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, leaving Mr. Biden to remain largely above the fray.
And when Mr Buttigieg ended his campaign after recording paltry support from black voters in the South Carolina primary, Biden’s campaign gave him his own endorsement event – a plum not offered to other rivals like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Representative Beto O ‘. Rourke of Texas, who lent his support to Mr Biden at a campaign rally hours later.
Being in Mr Biden’s cabinet will give Mr Buttigieg a national pole from which he can advance his future political career in the Democratic Party.
It will also allow him to apply some of the public transport policy experience he gained during his tenure as mayor to national infrastructure challenges that cause permanent bipartisan frustration.
Mr Buttigieg, whose calling card as a presidential candidate was an assertion for reviving a dying Midwestern town, has made transportation corridors a priority. Shortly after being elected mayor in 2012, he set out to transform downtown South Bend through an initiative called Smart Streets to reduce traffic, add bike lanes and make certain areas more user-friendly. pedestrians.
After years of political resistance, investment in infrastructure has sparked a revival of the city center. New hotels, retail and residential loft conversions followed, and around 1,000 people had taken up residence in downtown South Bend by the time Mr Buttigieg left office in January, up from virtually zero during taking office.
“Pete’s appointment is another milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure that LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government – and its impact will reverberate far beyond the department he will lead,” said Annise Parker. , president of LGBTQ Victory Institute, to a statement. “Most important, however, is that Pete will bring his intelligence and energy to the Department of Transportation and our nation will be better off for it.”
Reid Epstein and Trip Gabriel contributed reporting.