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Burlington Official Takes Job In Biden Administration

screenshot of Luke McGowan at virtual press conference announcing he is leaving Burlington
screenshot of Luke McGowan at virtual press conference announcing he is leaving Burlington

The director of Burlington, Vermont’s Community and Economic Development Office is leaving today to take a job in the Biden administration.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced this week that Luke McGowan had accepted a position as senior advisor on the White House Intergovernmental Affairs Team.  The Democratic mayor said it is bittersweet to lose a key city staff member.    “We are excited for him although it is a loss here.  We are excited that he is leaving us to go join President Biden’s team and be working out of the White House doing in a sense similar work at the national level, helping to lead the White House effort to connect with state and local governments and give them the support they need to bring this pandemic to a halt and then lead the recovery. And he is leading the work on COVID-19 stimulus and economic recovery efforts.”

McGowan is not unknown to President Biden or the White House, having worked there during the Obama administration.   “I worked for then Vice President Biden 10 years ago and I actually worked on the Recovery Act to help some mayors and governors. You know I was an assistant at the time. So helping to write letters and take notes on calls but certainly helping the Vice President’s team take these big federal programs and implement them out in the community. And that has really struck me that it’s a partnership. I think just having that operating that operating partnership model consistent messaging is really valuable and so that’s what I’m hoping to do in this administration and why I’m so excited to be joining the administration because I think it’s a real opportunity to build on that partnership.”

McGowan says his new job tasks him and his team with helping the White House address the pandemic and economic recovery on four levels.   “First we have to knock down this virus. We have to get our people vaccinated. We have to get testing resources out into the community to really get ahold of this virus. Nothing can happen until we’ve done that. Two it’s the economic recovery. You know the people and small businesses who have borne the brunt of this need relief now and are going to need investment and support in the future. Three is racial justice and racial equity. We have to do more to make sure these programs are accessible to our neighbors. And then finally climate resilient investments and programming.”

McGowan has served as Burlington’s director of the Community and Economic Development Office – or CEDO — for about a year and a half.  He said his experience in Vermont will help him in his new White House position.  “I am going to take back kind of two-fold lessons. One a lot of what CEDO does is take and route federal funding and that job is not easy. I think there oftentimes where it feels there are ways to improve that process. So that’s one lesson I’m going to take. Another is the importance of community engagement. If the people who are really experiencing the problem you’re trying to solve don’t have a voice in coming up with the solution you aren’t going to be able to solve the solution effectively. So that’s another lesson that I’m going to take back to Washington.”

McGowan says specifics of his new job are still being determined but he will be working on national rather than focusing on regional issues.   “The team that I’m supporting is structured to be able to essentially support state, local and tribal governments and make sure they have a voice in the policy making process in Washington. And so there won’t be necessarily a geographic focus that I’ll have but more of a breadth of issues that are confronting those types of entities as they deal with the economic recovery that we’re going to be coming into fairly soon here.”