Lukas McGowan (left) and Mayor Miro Weinberger on Tuesday
Mayor Miro Weinberger has picked a former Obama staffer and small business consultant to lead the city’s Community Economic Development Office.
At a press conference Tuesday, the mayor announced his appointment of Lukas McGowan to run CEDO, the city department that oversees everything from a lead abatement program to housing policies and the city’s tax-increment financing districts.
McGowan, who currently lives in South Woodstock, worked as a regional field director for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and later as vice president Joe Biden’s speechwriter. McGowan also served in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, according to his résumé. He earned degrees from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and from Columbia University.
McGowan left government in 2012 and went on to help run a San Francisco tech startup called Thumbtack, which connects consumers with services such as plumbers, photographers and other small businesses and sole proprietors, he said. The company started with 10 employees and grew to 400, Weinberger added.
McGowan’s wide-ranging experience in both the public and private sectors make him well suited for the job, the mayor said.
"We expect CEDO to support both our business community as well as our nonprofit and community justice communities,” he said. “Luke brings a rare quality of having served in a number of those roles.”
McGowan said at Thumbtack, he learned government can sometimes make it difficult for small businesses to succeed, but he thinks Burlington can do it right.
“I'm really passionate about figuring out how can a city like Burlington make it easier for small businesses like that to make a living,” he said. “I think that's a powerful opportunity for CEDO.”
Weinberger chose McGowan after a national search that began in February. He succeeds David White, who has pulled double duty as acting CEDO director and planning and zoning director since last December. White will continue on in the latter role, Weinberger said. Should the Burlington City Council approve his hiring, McGowan will be paid $109,030, the mayor said in a memo.
The mayor emphasized that McGowan is not a developer. Weinberger said that he’ll ask the council to create a new position to manage “high-profile projects” such as CityPlace Burlington and the Moran plant so that McGowan can focus on CEDO’s broad mission.
For his part, McGowan said he’s excited to work in a city that values diversity and entrepreneurship. He said he looks forward to listening to ideas from staff and the community.
“Every nonprofit, every small business, every person looking for affordable housing in some ways has an interaction with CEDO,” McGowan said. “In the first few months, I’m going to want to make a lot of progress toward hearing from the voices who need to be heard before coming up with solutions on my own."
The council will consider McGowan's appointment at its meeting next Monday, June 3. Should he be approved, McGowan would relocate to Burlington with his wife and 1-year-old son and start on the job July 8.
Correction, May 28, 2019: A previous version of this story misidentified one of the schools McGowan attended.