Initiative launches for top Pittsburgh jobs

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Pittsburgh Foundation president Grant Oliphant called it "the largest effort in this history of the United States to create an objective municipal hiring process."

Tuesday, Mayor-elect Bill Peduto and Mr. Oliphant announced that Talent City, a foundation-backed initiative meant to take the politics out of hiring, had begun accepting applications on the Internet for 43 jobs in Mr. Peduto's administration.

"This is a new Pittsburgh ... and to build it we need the best minds from around this country to join the people who are already here," Mr. Peduto said at a news conference in the Pittsburgh Foundation's Downtown headquarters.

By the business day's end, more than 100 people had applied for jobs on the website, and with word of the launch spreading, applications were coming in at about one per minute by around 4 p.m., said foundation spokesman John Ellis. To apply, visit

Mr. Peduto said all at-will positions with a salary of more than $70,000 will go through the process, with the exception of top cabinet posts that were announced last week. Talent City will also be used to fill positions with lower salaries, but those applicants may go through a truncated version of the process. There are about 140 at-will positions that new mayors have the opportunity to fill that are outside union and civil service protections.

The launch of the site coincided with a memo that was sent out to senior, at-will city employees encouraging them to reapply for their jobs.

"We strongly encourage you to re-apply through Talent City to retain your current appointment, or another open position, in the incoming Peduto Administration," Kevin Acklin, Mr. Peduto's head of transition, wrote. "We are looking for motivated and talented individuals who share our vision of working for city residents."

While Mr. Peduto and his administration will have final say on the hires, those who apply will be culled through a rigorous screening process. Several local foundations donated a total of $275,000 to support the effort. Applicants will first be interviewed by human resources professionals, then those screened candidates will go for interviews before one of three selection committees. The committees will select three to five candidates, whose names will be forwarded to Mr. Peduto and his administration.

The selection committees are made up of a variety of professionals -- in addition to several veterans of city government. Former U.S. Attorney Fred Thieman, now head of the Buhl Foundation, is on the 10-member oversight committee that will be guiding the process. He said the selection committees were designed to balance "objectivity, independence and transparency on one hand and other hand valuing experience and institutional knowledge."

Neither Mr. Peduto nor any of his staff had any say in who ended up on the selection committees.

The jobs opened for applications Tuesday include positions within the mayor's office that might have gone in the past to a "political person from your campaign," Mr. Peduto said. They also include the public safety chief, whose job includes overseeing an embattled police bureau whose former chief was indicted on federal charges in March. Mr. Peduto reiterated his plans to engage the community in a process for building a job description for the next police chief and conducting a national search, a process that he said will take six to nine months. He said it's his preference that the candidate come from outside the bureau.

The Talent City website also includes an "idea portal," allowing anyone to submit ideas or suggestions for the mayor-elect. Around 60 ideas -- touching on everything from traffic safety to blight to graffiti -- had been posted by Tuesday.

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published November 19, 2013 1:40 PM

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