Buttigieg, speaking Wednesday in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, after being formally appointed as the president-elect’s transportation secretary, said, “Americans look to us to ensure that the idea of an ‘infrastructure week’ is linked to results is and never again will be a media punch line.”
During his four years in the White House, Trump’s administration repeatedly hosted “Infrastructure Week” events. But they have never been able to pressure Congress to pass a sweeping plan to modernize the country’s roads and bridges, railroad tracks and airports.
Buttigieg’s transportation experience paled in comparison to other contenders for the Cabinet position, which oversees a department of 55,000 people. As mayor of South Bend, a city of approximately 100,000, he oversaw a relatively small rapid transit system. The city is served by an airport managed by county officials.
But Biden praised his candidate, noting, “I met Pete on the campaign trail. He is one of the smartest people you will ever meet and one of the most humble. A mayor from the heartland, a management expert and a politician with a big heart.”
He added that Buttigieg, a veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and would make history as the country’s first openly gay cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate, a “new voice with new ideas, determined to put old politics behind.” permit”.
Biden emphasized that Buttigieg was chosen for the transport “because the department is at the nexus of some of our most ambitious plans to rebuild better…Pete has the perspective of a mayor who solves problems and brings people together.”
Buttigieg touted his record as mayor and seemed to resist criticism for not doing enough to fix potholes during his tenure at South Bend.
“We have also dealt with the challenges that have arisen as a result of generations of insufficient infrastructure funding from the state and federal government. With just enough resources to only repave every kilometer of road every hundred years or so, I faced a constant battle with every mayor’s natural enemy: the pothole,” he said.
And Buttigieg emphasized that “in a community where more than a quarter of our residents lived in poverty, we worked to fill the gaps created when too many were cut off from opportunities by underfunded transit resources just because they weren’t had the means to own a car.
A lack of national experience didn’t stop Buttigieg from skyrocketing in the presidential campaign. Announcing his candidacy for the White House, Buttigieg was the tallest of the longshots who zoomed into the fight for the nomination earlier this year. He ousted Senator Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Caucuses before finishing a close second to the Vermont Senator in the New Hampshire primary.
While Buttigieg sped up after his successes in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire as the electorate diversified, his fortunes plummeted. A third-place finish in the Nevada caucuses was followed by a distant fourth-place finish in the South Carolina primary.
Buttigieg finished his presidential bid after South Carolina and immediately endorsed Biden and became one of the former vice president’s best running mates. In the fall, he helped Biden’s running mate Sen. Kamala Harris of California, another Democratic primary rival, prepare for the vice presidential debate. Buttigieg played the role of Vice President Mike Pence in the training sessions before the showdown.
Though seen by many Democrats as a rising star within the party, Buttigieg has been criticized by some progressive groups and black activists for not doing enough to address racial inequality as mayor of South Bend.
Buttigieg noted in his comments that when it comes to transportation, “misguided policies and missed opportunities can exacerbate racial and economic inequalities, divide or isolate neighborhoods, and undermine government’s fundamental role in empowering Americans to thrive.” However, he emphasized that the new administration can “deliver transportation policies and resources that create jobs, address the climate challenge, and serve equitably to all Americans.”
Citing the historic nature of his election, Buttigieg said he was “aware that the eyes of history are on this appointment, knowing that this is the first time an American president has elected an openly LGBTQ cabinet member for confirmation.” sent to the Senate. ”
And he thanked Biden “for recognizing your commitment to diversity with this government that you’re putting together.”
It appears that both Biden and Buttigieg would benefit from his confirmation as Secretary of Transportation.
Buttigieg, a Rhodes Fellow, is a polished public speaker who aggressively drew media attention during his White House run. That could help the new Biden administration gain the spotlight to push ahead with a major infrastructure bill that will be a priority in 2021.
But Buttigieg also benefits.
A high-profile Cabinet position allows Buttigieg, who will soon be 39, to add to his political resume and remain firmly in the national spotlight, which can only help if he craves another presidential bid in the years to come.