There was little doubt in people’s minds that the Maltese-American politician Pete Buttigieg would land a role in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. But not many were expecting him to land this position.
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will become Transportation Secretary, making him the first gay Cabinet Secreatary in the history of the United States, pending Senate approval.
Buttigieg is also the first former Democratic rival in the presidential election to join Biden’s administration. The Maltese-American trumped Biden in the 2020 primaries but soon after dropped out of the race to join the former Vice President’s camp.
This shift was considered instrumental in bringing Democratic voters together in support of the Biden administration and was a piece of the puzzle that contributed to his astounding success in the presidential election last month.
However, Buttigieg landing the role of Transportation Secretary is somewhat unexpected and questionable given his thin resume both in the federal government and with transportation policy.
“As South Bend mayor, he was chief executive of a city with a population of just over 100,000, with a relatively small transportation footprint,” said Politico.
“Its local transit agency has a fleet of 60 buses and has seen sinking ridership in the last few years. There’s an international airport near South Bend, but it’s run by the county,” it said.
Prior to his nomination, CNN reported that Buttigieg was up against former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, all of whom have more experience in government and transportation policy than Buttigieg does.
New York magazine Curbed was quick to note that Buttigieg had no experience running such a department and “certainly does not have any qualifying administrative experience” but argued that this wasn’t such a bad thing.
“He has, through his own presidential run, demonstrated a firm grasp of the issues at stake for Americans,” it said.
“This position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us. Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the Department of Transportation,” Biden said in a statement following his nomination of Buttigieg.
“I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency and a bold vision.”
However, others have high hopes for Buttigieg in his new role, noting how his tenure as Mayor of South Bend saw economic revitalisation and urban development become a cornerstone of his administration.
“When you think about all that the president-elect has talked about in his Build Back Better plan, with it being centred on infrastructure, and having to deal with the implications for the climate as it relates to that issue, you need someone with Pete Buttigieg’s talent and capability,” said Rodney Slater, a former Clinton administration Transport Secretary.
From first being tapped as United Nations Ambassador then to Veteran Affairs and then Ambassador to China, Mayor Pete has finally found his place in the Biden administration and he’s welcomed the opportunity with open arms.
Innovation in transportation helped build my hometown, and it propels our country.
Now is the time to build back better through modern and sustainable infrastructure that creates millions of good-paying union jobs, revitalizes communities, and empowers all Americans to thrive.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 16, 2020
But doubts still remain on whether Buttigieg’s affinity with Biden will be enough to overcome his shortcomings in the transportation industry and lead to an effective tenure as Transportation Secretary.
What do you make of Pete Buttigieg’s new role? Let us know in the comments below