Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sends his staff regular email updates.
Insider obtained nine of them under the Freedom of Information Act.
He emails about vaccines, pride celebrations, and parenthood.
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Emails that Insider obtained give a glimpse into the communication style of the Biden Cabinet secretary who is generating buzz as a possible 2024 White House contender if his boss doesn’t seek reelection.
The Transportation secretary sends out regular notes that offer insights about his approach to running a department with 55,000 federal employees around the country, not to mention the details he shares about his personal life.
In one June email, for example, Buttigieg wished the department’s staff a “happy Pride!” in an email commemorating LGBTQ Pride Month.
“We’re seeing a lot of flags out around D.C. and around the country and as the first out, Senate-confirmed member of a president’s Cabinet, it’s of course personal to me and I’m delighted to be able to celebrate this occasion with so many of you,” Buttigieg wrote.
That’s just one of the emails federal employees have received from Buttigieg since the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was sworn in as President Joe Biden’s top transportation official in February.
Insider obtained nine emails in total from Buttigieg to his staff under the Freedom of Information Act. Many of them serve as pep talks of sorts, thanking the team for their work and updating them on the department’s priorities. Buttigieg also gets personal, like his note about Pride Month and an announcement in September that he and his husband, Chasten, had become parents to newborn twins.
Buttigieg — and his management style — is getting more scrutiny as speculation about the 2024 Democratic presidential field intensifies. He emerged as a serious candidate for the White House in 2020 and won the Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses. With 2024 around the corner, he’s already generating buzz among Democratic donors who hope he’ll run if Biden opts out of a reelection bid.
Buttigieg has prioritized engaging with DOT staff since he started the job, a department spokesperson told Insider. The secretary held a virtual listening tour earlier this year and two town halls with staff. He also meets with department employees when he travels. Buttigieg is constantly looking for ways to connect with and learn from staff, the spokesperson said.
‘Mayor Pete’ or ‘Secretary Pete’?
When Buttigieg was first selected to lead the department, some employees at Transportation — a behemoth federal agency not usually known for its star power — were thrilled to have a political up-and-comer as their new boss. One DOT staffer was bombarded by texts from friends wondering what Buttigieg would be called in his new gig: “Are you going to say ‘Mayor Pete’ or ‘Secretary Pete’?”
Buttigieg himself has adopted “Secretary Pete,” the emails show. He signs off with “All my best, Secretary Pete” or “Sincerely, Secretary Pete.” Several of the notes begin with some version of “Hey everyone! Secretary Pete here.”
Sometimes, Buttigieg breaks bad news to his staff, including an announcement that some of the department’s employees were furloughed after Congress failed to extend transportation funding legislation before it expired.
“I know that this has understandably been a source of uncertainty and anxiety for many of you,” Buttigieg wrote. “And I want you to know that our entire leadership team is doing everything in our power to work with Congress and the White House to resolve this situation as soon as possible.”
Buttigieg updated staff the next day to let them know the funding had been approved, and that the employees who had halted work could return the following Monday and would receive back pay.
“I know the last few days have not been easy for our DOT team, especially those of you who were affected by this furlough — and I am deeply thankful for your patience, your commitment, and your service,” he wrote.
Buttigieg has also pressed DOT staff to get COVID-19 vaccines to comply with Biden’s mandate for federal workers.
“This is what we need to do as federal employees, and as citizens of this great country, to beat back the virus and help us find a path out,” he wrote in an October 13 email. “For those who have not yet been vaccinated, please do so now.”
The White House set a deadline of November 22 for federal workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk being suspended or fired. The Biden administration said on Monday that it wouldn’t punish workers who hadn’t complied with the mandate until next year.
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