The U.S. Senate early Thursday confirmed Connecticut’s Sara Bronin to become chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a year and a half after her initial nomination by President Joe Biden.
Bronin, a professor and lawyer, will lead an agency that advises the president and Congress on federal historic preservation policy and takes into consideration how federal projects may affect historic resources. Her term will last through Jan. 19, 2025.
The Senate approved her nomination, along with those of several other executive nominees, in a voice vote in the early hours of Thursday as lawmakers tried to hash out an agreement to vote on the government funding bill.
“Historic, tribal, and cultural resources connect us with our past, while offering a chance to shape our future. That is why preservationists must engage in current debates about energy policy, climate resilience, housing development, transportation infrastructure, tribal sovereignty, and the tax system,” Bronin said in a statement.
“As chair, I hope to work with the agency’s experienced and knowledgeable staff to continue the ACHP’s involvement in these key issues, bringing a spirit of innovation, a commitment to inclusion, and a sense of deep responsibility to generations to come, she added.”
Bronin is a professor at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. And she is the wife of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in November 2023.
Biden selected Bronin for the position in June 2021, and she testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee a few months later. But with her nomination still pending, Bronin was renominated by the president in January 2022. The committee approved her nomination in March in a bipartisan vote.
Bronin, who is Mexican-American, has a long history of working on historic preservation. She previously led Preservation Connecticut, served on the board of Latinos in Heritage Conservation and worked as an advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
She has also focused on public policy, forming the group DesegregateCT in 2020 that advocates for reforms to the state’s zoning laws and seeks more affordable housing options.
During her confirmation hearing last year before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bronin said she wanted to better develop the agency’s working relationship and advisory capacity with Congress.
“My passion for preservation comes from the recognition that historic, tribal and cultural resources benefit us in unique ways,” Bronin said at the time. “They connect us with our past and give us a sense of continuity, identity and belonging.”
“From my ancestors’ lands on the Texas-Mexico border to colonial Connecticut where I live today, from indigenous homelands to fragile archaeological resources, the Advisory Council urges protection of it all,” she added.
Connecticut’s senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal had been urging the full Senate to swiftly confirm her nomination.
“Her commitment to this vital cause is demonstrated convincingly by her championing vulnerable community assets across Connecticut,” Blumenthal said in a Thursday statement. “In this new role, she will take this work to a national level.”
“Sara Bronin is an architect, attorney, and nationally recognized expert on historic preservation — there is no one better suited to serve as chair of this council. I’m proud of the work she’s done to advance equity in Connecticut and the city of Hartford, and I’m confident she will bring the same expertise and passion to this new role. I’m thrilled to see her confirmed by the full Senate,” Murphy said.
The top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee had raised concerns about Bronin’s public policy work as well as her previous comments surrounding preservation.
During last year’s confirmation hearing, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., pointed to an op-ed she wrote in 2020, where she wrote “we should rethink how we determine whose history is protected to begin with” and that the criteria for determining historic preservation should be “retooled.”
Bronin responded that the criteria related to the National Register of Historic Places has been around for years and that getting a property listed on it is getting “increasingly expensive.” She said there might need to be more flexibility when it comes to “rural communities and underserved communities.”
Barrasso and Republicans on the committee voted against her nomination in March with the exception of two. But Bronin was reported favorably out of the committee twice in a 12-8 vote: once in 2021 and again in 2022 after Biden renominated her.
Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.V., had noted that Bronin would be the 12th chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation but only the second to be confirmed, since the president used to be able to appoint the role without any approval by the Senate.
The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.