In another noteworthy milestone for the Biden Administration, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor and 2020 Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has been confirmed by the Senate as secretary of transportation. Buttigieg easily won the vote (86–13), becoming the first openly LGBTQ individual to ever be selected for a full-time position on a presidential Cabinet.
I'm honored and humbled by today's vote in the Senate—and ready to get to work @USDOT.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 2, 2021
At the age of just 39, Buttigieg will be the youngest member of Biden’s Cabinet. And according to NPR’s Brian Naylor, as transportation secretary “he will take the reins at a sprawling agency, with jurisdiction over everything from federal highways to pipelines, air traffic and railroads, employing some 55,000 people.”
Naylor has reported that the transportation department is “poised to play a major role in the new administration’s efforts to combat climate change. Biden has said his infrastructure improvement proposals would include the ‘second great railroad revolution,’ and that he would seek funding ‘to build more climate-resilient communities to deal with more extreme floods, droughts and super storms.’”
“Transportation is an issue that touches all Americans,” American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement. “Having served as the mayor of a city sitting at the crossroads of America, Mr. Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans — and how important it is to solve them.” He added that his association, the largest national trade association for trucking in America, believes “Mr. Buttigieg will make an excellent Transportation Secretary.”
According to The Associated Press, Secretary Buttigieg sent a department-wide email to all transportation department employees following his swearing in to office. In the email message, reporter Hope Yen said he urged for “imaginative, bold, forward thinking.”
“We will continue to prioritize safety as the foundation of everything we do,” Buttigieg wrote. “And at the same time, we will break new ground: in ensuring that our economy recovers and rebuilds, in rising to the climate challenge and in making sure transportation is an engine for equity in this country.”
In addition to his historic role as secretary of transportation, Out has noted a number of the other notable firsts already lining Buttigieg’s résumé. Among them: he was the first out executive in the state of Indiana; the first out candidate in a presidential debate; and also the first out candidate to win a presidential primary.
The Los Angeles Blade, among other news outlets, has pointed out that Richard Grenell — who is also gay — served as acting Director of National Intelligence from February to May of 2020. However, he never faced a Senate confirmation hearing and only filled the role temporarily.
The first Senate-approved openly LGBTQ government official in our nation’s history was James Hormel, heir to the famous canned meat family of products. After much back and forth by the Clinton administration, Hormel became the ambassador to Luxembourg in October of 1997.
In late December of 2020, following his nomination for transportation secretary, Buttigieg referenced Hormel and the history he had helped to usher in.
“I can remember watching the news — 17-years-old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay — ultimately able to serve only by a recess appointment,” he said. “And I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged.”
He continued: “Two decades later, I can’t help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family. And I’m thinking about the message that today’s announcement is sending to them.”
D.I. Fast Facts
Amount of money set aside for the 2021 Department of Transportation budget