On February 2, 2021, Pete Buttigieg was confirmed, by a vote of 86 to 13, as the Secretary of Transportation. The youngest Senate member at age thirty-nine, he has the distinction of being the first out LGBTQ official cabinet member to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a cabinet position.
Since 2008, Buttigieg has been married to (James) Chasten Buttigieg, a school teacher, writer of I Have Something To Tell You, a memoir. Chasten is an LGBT rights advocate and was advisor, spokesperson and social media campaigner during Buttigieg’s presidential 2020 campaign. During his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Buttigieg thanked his husband for “his many sacrifices and his support in making it possible for me to pursue public service.”
A Snapshot of What The Job Entails
Buttigieg will oversee the overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure: aviation, highways, vehicles, pipelines and transit as well as efforts to ensure safe transportation. Once Biden’s adversary for presidency, Biden now calls Buttigieg a “new voice.”
Sharing President Biden’s beliefs in climate change, racial justice, job creation and economic recovery, Buttigieg has pledged to work with the nation’s state, local, and tribal leaders. He will be aided by Deputy-Secretary-Designate Polly Trottenberg, who ran the New York City Department of Transportation.
President Biden has a $2 trillion climate and infrastructure plan. The Transportation Department has 55,000 employees and a budget of tens of billions of dollars.
Secretary Buttigieg will be promoting Biden’s sweeping “green” initiative, helping to oversee stronger automotive fuel-economy standards to reduce green house gas emissions. He will investigate the Federal Aviation Administration’s measures that govern aviation safety and boost them, particularly after two fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes. He plans to fulfill Biden’s wishes to install 500,000 electric vehicle -charging stations across the country.
Will he decide whether to fund a planned $13 billion tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey in heavily travelled N.E. rail corridor and will he greenlight congestion pricing in Manhattan?
Former Mayor Pete
While Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in a state, where former Vice-President Pence lived, Buttigieg’s signature transportation achievement transportation achievement was a $25 million project “Smart Streets.” It converted S. Bend’s one-way roads into two-way streets with bike lines and sidewalks for foot traffic and downtown commercial activity. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington says “Buttigieg dealt with the infrastructure where the rubber meets the road, managing state, federal, and local resources, to help build the infrastructure in his community.”
Although he was criticized for the firing of a black police chief when he was elected Mayor (2015) and did not diversify South Bend’s majority white police force, Mayor Pete, with little federal experience, tied with Bernie Sanders to win the Iowa Caucus while running for Democratic President. In 2017, Buttigieg ran the Democratic National Committee Chairmanship election.\
Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, that trains LGBTQ leaders to run for office and win, said “Pete shattered a centuries-old political barrier with overwhelming bipartisan support and that paves the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue high-profile appointments.”
A graduate of Harvard College (2004) and a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College, Oxford University (2007), and Naval Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan in 2014, Buttigieg is articulate and can “think on his feet” without exploding at his opponents. We saw that capability during the Presidential debates last year.
Greg Regan, Secretary-Treasurer of Transportation Trades Department (AFL-CIO), saw in Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing ” how detailed his transportation infrastructure policy platform was and that he cares about the details. He’s interested in getting to the bottom of these issues and finding how to solve the problems that are facing us right now.”
Especially popular with the young, Buttigieg, after his confirmation, wrote on Twitter, “I’m honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate – and ready to get to work @USDOT. “ 74.5K followers liked this tweet. (His Senate acceptance speech that the tweet was based on, was: “I’m honored to serve as Secretary of Transportation and help build the kind of infrastructure that creates jobs, empowers all, and keeps travelers and workers safe. It’s time to get to work.”).
Unlike the original movie “ Trains, Planes, and Automobiles,” with Steve Martin and John Candy, Pete Buttigieg’s performance as Secretary of Transportation will not be a comedy, but a concerted effort to get this country travelling safely.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.