Foundations to help next city administration recruit top officials

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Members of Pittsburgh's foundation community are organizing a national talent search to help the next city administration recruit senior officials, and that effort could be a prelude to broader institutional cooperation between the city and its foundations.

Details of the foundations' headhunting initiative are to be announced today. Bill Peduto, the Democratic nominee and prohibitive favorite for the post, said he welcomes the effort and plans to rely heavily on its recommendations.

The search would identify candidates for positions such as police and fire chief and other senior department officials.

"I intend to use this process," Mr. Peduto said.

While stressing that the outside group would not have any formal or informal veto over personnel choices, he said, "Obviously there's always the ability to choose others, but that's not my intent. My intent is to participate."

Mr. Peduto said he had been approached by foundation officials about the process. He said that in addition to casting a nationwide net for outside candidates, the review would include current city officials who wished to apply for roles in the new administration. Foundations' funding and efforts similarly helped Allegheny County conduct the recent search that led to the hiring of Karen A. Hacker as the director of the county health department.

Mr. Peduto said Grant Oliphant, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, had played a key coordinating role in enlisting several local foundations in the broader effort to recruit talent for his administration.

Sensitive to the fact that the election is still weeks away, however, both Mr. Peduto and a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Foundation said that this was a bipartisan initiative initiated by the foundation community.

They also said that Josh Wander, the Republican nominee, had also said that, if elected, he, too, would participate. Mr. Wander remains out of the country, but Bob Hillen, the city GOP chairman and a Wander adviser, confirmed that his candidate had agreed to the proposal.

Mr. Peduto said he wanted to defer to the foundation community on disclosing the details of the search effort, including its budget and exactly how it would operate. John Ellis, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Foundation, said those specifics would be released with the initiative's official announcement today.

Mr. Peduto said he also had conversations with foundation officials on the possibility of joint efforts on the operations of his administration but that those conversations were not as far along as those on the personnel search. That proposal would establish what the Democrat described as a "bureau of special projects."

As Mr. Peduto described it, the proposed entity would have two parts. One would be an office of urban affairs, which would work to dovetail the community-building and educational efforts of government with those of foundations and other groups such as faith-based organizations.

The other would be an office of technology innovation, focused on improving the efficiency of city operations as well as on how government could do a better job of working with businesses and entrepreneurs in the city.

Mr. Peduto contended that the city's well-endowed charitable groups had been underutilized in the current administration.

"They bring resources and a checkbook," he said. "Working with them on this to find the best talent is basically a no-brainer to me."


Politics Editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.

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