- Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
- Mayor Miro Weinberger flanked by family on Thursday
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger will not seek reelection next year, ending one of the longest tenures at the helm of Vermont's biggest city.
Weinberger, a four-term Democrat, announced his decision during a press conference on Thursday at Burlington City Arts Studios — the same place he kicked off his first-ever mayoral campaign in 2011.
Weinberger, who isn’t always at ease in front of television cameras, seemed relaxed and almost relieved to announce his decision, which he called one of the most difficult in his life. Standing at a lectern with his parents, wife and two daughters at his side, Weinberger said “this is the right time” to step away.
“I take great joy and have incredible pride in the work of this administration,” he said, adding, “I want to say thank you to the people of Burlington.”
“I’ve watched my community struggle to address complex challenges and leadership fail to rethink our approach,” she wrote. “We need to address our community safety, housing, and opioid crisis together and now.”
When Weinberger took office in 2012, he was the first Democrat elected to the mayor’s seat in 31 years. A former housing developer and political neophyte, Weinberger won over voters who had grown disenchanted with city Progressives after the party’s figurehead, then-mayor Bob Kiss, diverted city funds to bail out the failing Burlington Telecom.
The city’s credit rating was in the toilet. But over his tenure, Weinberger has raised the rating by six steps, saving taxpayers an estimated $24 million, according to a city report released last week. He also built up cash reserves, which would later help the city weather unexpected costs during the pandemic.
His leadership during the early days of the pandemic earned praise. Weinberger reassigned a handful of city staff to helm a new COVID-19 Resource and Recovery Center, which helped Burlingtonians access free meals and childcare, among other needs. Another group of city staff distributed hundreds of hand-sewn face masks.
Weinberger also has an impressive list of infrastructure projects under his belt, including a renovation of City Hall Park and upgrades to the bike path. Most recently, he helped kick-start construction on the long-stalled Champlain Parkway. This summer, he successfully ushered in a zoning change that will allow housing to be built on what are now empty parking lots in the South End.
At that time, Progressives controlled the city council, and, with three of their Democratic colleagues, held a now-infamous vote to reduce the police force through attrition. Several months later, in March 2021, Weinberger barely held onto his job, winning the mayoral election by 129 votes over then-council president Max Tracy, a Progressive.
It worked. In March of this year, voters shot down a measure that would have formed a new police oversight board, and Progressives lost their plurality on the council. Weinberger leveraged the new dynamic to appoint Jon Murad as permanent police chief, a post Murad had previously been denied under Prog rule.
Racial justice advocates have also come after Weinberger. In 2020, protestors hosted a sit-in on the mayor's lawn to demand three police officers be fired for using excessive force against young Black men — and that the mayor lose his job, too. That summer, activists spent about a month camped out in Battery Park.
Weinberger said he’s unsure about his next steps but also hinted that his political ambitions may not be over. He said he remains concerned about the drug crisis, housing shortage and rising rates of homelessness, and that “those issues won’t fix themselves.
“I do think they're gonna take strong leadership to put us on a new trajectory,” he said. “I am definitely going to explore whether there's some way for me to have an impact.”