Mayor Miro Weinberger has picked City Councilor Brian Pine (P-Ward 3) to be the next director of the city's Community and Economic Development Office.
The mayor and Pine announced the decision at a virtual COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
"My love for Burlington made this decision pretty easy, when the mayor asked if I would consider taking on this position," Pine said. "For me, serving the community that has been my home for the last 40 years is an honor that is an emotional honor."
Pine is no stranger to CEDO, having worked as the department's housing director for close to 18 years, including nearly three under Weinberger. He left the post in 2015 and has since held various consulting gigs in the private sector. Pine is currently the interim coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.
If appointed by the council, Pine would become CEDO's sixth leader in the nine years Weinberger has been in office. Pine would replace Luke McGowan, who left the city in February for a post in President Joe Biden's administration.
Pine, who was a city councilor in the 1990s, was again elected to the body in 2018. Last December, he sought the Progressive party's nomination for mayor in a bid to unseat Weinberger but lost to current Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2).
Pine said that while he and Weinberger won't always agree, they "share a deep and abiding love for Burlington and making Burlington the best small city in America."
"To me, this represents what Burlington politics should be and is often about — we do have partisan, contested, toughly-fought elections, and then we make a decision as a community," the mayor said. "People who had been competitors or on other sides of a campaign roll up their sleeves [and] get down to work."
The council is expected to vote on Pine's appointment this coming Monday, May 24. If he's approved, the city will schedule a special election for Pine's council seat, likely in August. His term was due to expire in 2022.
Pine's resignation from the council has the potential to alter the body's partisan balance. The council's six Progs currently need just one swing vote to pass resolutions; losing Ward 3 to a Democrat would put them on equal footing with the four council Dems, who reliably support Weinberger's agenda. The 12-person body also has two independents.
Pine said he's confident that Progressives will hold the seat, as they have for decades. Tracy was equally unconcerned, noting that Weinberger "is not very popular in the Old North End." The mayor notched just 31 percent of the vote in Ward 3 this past March.
"It's hard to see folks wanting to give him another vote on the city council," Tracy said, adding that Progs will soon begin recruiting candidates.
Tracy congratulated his colleague and applauded Weinberger for appointing a Progressive to run CEDO, which was created by former mayor Bernie Sanders in 1983. The office manages myriad programs, ranging from large capital projects to the city's restorative justice center.
"I think that's positive because we do need different thinking when it comes to issues like housing, for instance, where we just haven't seen enough progress," Tracy said.
Pine said he anticipates working on various housing reforms, including helping close the home ownership gap faced by Black residents and expanding the city's supply of permanently affordable housing.
"Regardless of the challenge, regardless of the resources available, CEDO staff will step up and try to deliver for this community every single time," he said. "That's been inspiring to me, and I look forward to working with that kind of team again."
Pine says he will "serve in this role for as long as the mayor feels it's the right fit."
Weinberger said Pine will bring needed perspective and experience to the office.
"He knows this community extraordinarily well, having served in a variety of roles," the mayor said of Pine. "He will have the opportunity to lead a department that is coming out of the pandemic invigorated and changed and being deployed to new initiatives."
Weinberger has a number of other department head vacancies to fill. City Attorney Eileen Blackwood, one of the mayor's first appointees, is leaving next month, as is Brian Lowe, the city's chief innovation officer. Lowe formerly served as Weinberger's chief of staff.
Planning director David White will be retiring after 20 years working for the city, including two separate stints as interim CEDO director. White will take on a new part-time role as a "senior urban policy advisor" to special planning and housing projects, according to the mayor's office.
The city also just restarted a search for its next police chief. No one has held the position permanently since Brandon del Pozo resigned in December 2019.
Correction, May 19, 2021: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the police chief position as "vacant" since December 2019. An acting or interim chief has served since then.