President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday he has chosen former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his Transportation secretary.
“South Bend was once called one of America’s ‘dying cities.’ Today, it’s a hub of innovation and job growth. Mayor Pete Buttigieg led that resurgence, and has been nominated by the President-elect to continue that work as Transportation Secretary,” the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team said on Twitter.
Buttigieg, who was an opponent of Biden’s during the 2020 primary elections, is expected to play a central role in the incoming president’s plans to restore and repair roads and bridges throughout the U.S.
“This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all,” Buttigieg tweeted. “I’m honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.”
The president-elect has for months said smart, climate-friendly infrastructure projects can help the U.S. emerge from the coronavirus recession stronger and help support thousands of jobs.
Buttigieg, 38, quickly became a household name during the 2020 elections as a younger, yet still moderate option for Democrats hoping to prevent a second term for President Donald Trump.
Though Buttigieg dropped out of the 2020 race in March despite winning in the Iowa caucuses, the openly gay politician soon thereafter endorsed Biden for president.
The president-elect has often offered high praise for Buttigieg as emblematic of the next generation of Democrats and was widely expected to name him to a high-level administration post.
“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation. I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” Biden said in a statement. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better. I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”
A business ally of Biden’s told CNBC that Buttigieg could have a big impact on the administration’s infrastructure proposal since he’s not connected to the stagnant talks in Congress about how to pay for such a plan.
“He will not be inhibited by what has always been the limitations on Capitol Hill,” the person said. I “haven’t spoken with him yet, but I am positive if it happens.”
This person declined to be named in order to speak freely.
Among its many proposals, the Biden campaign floated a $2 trillion plan that, married to his climate goals, would “build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy.”
The expansive plan includes more general investments for roads and bridges, and more specific proposals like providing every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options.
Buttigieg, a military veteran, is perhaps best known in politics for his two terms as the mayor of South Bend from 2012 to 2020.
Under his tenure, the city embarked on extensive urban development and economic revitalization projects similar to those championed by Biden in promises to revitalize American infrastructure.
Critics of his time as mayor say his revitalization plans for South Bend did not necessarily benefit racial minorities as much as hoped.
For example, many were optimistic about his plans to knock down or repair nearly all of the city’s vacant homes, a demanding initiative that experts thought beyond possible. The program concentrated on the city’s lowest-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods, where homes were in disrepair.
And while many said they were happy to see dilapidated structures removed, they lamented a lack of planning on what would fill the space.
— CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed reporting.