Guy Costa, city public works director quits after 10 years
July 11, 2009 4:00 AM
Guy Costa will resign as the city public works director effective Oct. 2. After 10 years, he said it was simply time for him to move to another job.
By Rich Lord Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The man Pittsburghers have looked to for 10 years when snow slickens streets, potholes proliferate, bridges buckle or trash day comes is leaving city government to search for another job.
Public Works Director Guy Costa will work on-and-off through Oct. 2, when his resignation takes effect.
"I never expected to be here 10 years, and I thought about it, and thought about it, and just felt that it was time for me to move on and seek other opportunities," Mr. Costa said yesterday.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride for me, the ups and downs. ... The coaster is coming to the station. It's just time to move on for another ride."
The announcement saddened some of those who have worked with him for years.
"I tried to talk him into not putting [his resignation] in," said City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who chairs the Public Works Committee. "I think this is a mistake. But I can understand."
Mr. Costa, 53, of Squirrel Hill, has worked on city or Allegheny County infrastructure for nearly 30 years, including four years running the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. He's leaving his $99,381 job for uncertainty.
"I think Guy was a great public servant and he put his heart and soul into the job for the 10 years he was there," said former Mayor Tom Murphy.
"Now I can openly seek other opportunities," he said. "I do want to stay in operations."
He's not planning on running for office, though the General Assembly includes his two brothers and one distant relative, and his last name is one of the most proven brands in local politics.
In October, he clashed with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl after he was surprised by media reports that he would be suspended, along with four environmental services managers who wrongly took overtime pay. He threatened "payback" against whoever leaked news of his suspension and didn't rule out a mayoral bid.
"Guy served his suspension professionally and we all moved on from it," said city Operations Director Art Victor. "I think Guy's been very important to the city. ... He's not been asked to resign."
Mr. Ravenstahl yesterday issued a statement: "I appreciate Director Costa's years of service to the city and am glad that he will be available for the next several months to help with the transition," he said. "I wish him nothing but the best."
Mr. Costa was one of the last remaining directors from Mayor Tom Murphy's administration. Mayor Bob O'Connor, whose 2006 death led to Mr. Ravenstahl's ascent, leaned on him heavily during the transition.
"Guy Costa to me was a professional," said Dennis J. Regan, who was Mr. O'Connor's intergovernmental relations director. "That's the simplest way to put it. That's why we wanted him in there as director of public works."
After Ms. Harris joined council in 2007, she clashed with Mr. Costa, then came to admire him.
"The man works day and night. He's everywhere," she said. "He looks like he's cloned, because he's in so many places.
"He's going to be hard to replace. I think that they should convince him to stay."
Mr. Victor said the city would launch a "full-blown" search for a replacement, though he had not decided whether that will start before or after Mr. Costa's last day.
"I do want to stay with the city through the G-20 summit" of world leaders, set for Sept. 24 and 25 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Mr. Costa said. "I think it's very important that the city shines for the summit."
He'll alternate between taking paid time off to be with his 19-year-old son and working.
Mr. Costa was publicly stripped of control of snow removal in February 2008, after complaints prompted Mr. Ravenstahl to give that duty to Deputy Director of Operations Rob Kaczorowski.
He has also been at the helm when the department has been accused of letting politics affect the paving or plowing of streets, contracting with the politically connected, or struggling with worker discipline.
Mr. Costa has, though, overseen the merger of the former General Services Department and Engineering Department into his domain, even as he annually brought the burgeoning unit in under budget.
"The biggest challenge in this job is having the funding and the resources to do the job," he said.
He revamped refuse collection, contracted for energy-efficient traffic signals, constructed bike lanes and cut the number of city vehicles.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2006, but he said that it has not grown and was not a factor in his resignation.
"You know what? It's just time to move on," he said. "There's no other reason than that."