Peduto says his cabinet as Pittsburgh mayor will be most diverse in city history



They've battled cocaine dealers in south Florida, worked in the United Kingdom and Taiwan, served in leadership roles at universities and at multinational corporations, and include at least one registered Republican. Among them, they speak four languages and hold a doctorate, two master's degrees and three law degrees.

As Mayor-elect Bill Peduto announced his picks for six top Cabinet posts Thursday, he boasted that they represent the "most talented and diverse mayoral Cabinet in Pittsburgh's history."

Mr. Peduto's Cabinet includes not just new faces but an entirely new structure. New positions have been created and pre-existing positions have been tweaked to include added responsibilities. Two new positions that will focus on neighborhood development will be foundation-supported. Lawyer Kevin Acklin already has been tapped as chief of staff for Mr. Peduto and also will be chief development officer. That leaves one Cabinet post left to be filled -- chief public safety officer. Mr. Peduto has said current public safety director Mike Huss is a candidate.

Some of his hires are familiar names. Peduto campaign manager and former city public works director Guy Costa will return to oversee public works and similar departments as the city's chief operations officer. Mr. Costa was public works director under mayors Bob O'Connor and Luke Ravenstahl until he left the administration in late 2009, when he took a job in Allegheny County's economic development department. He took a leave to be campaign manager for the Peduto mayoral run.

Valerie McDonald-Roberts, former city councilwoman, county recorder of deeds and current manager of the county real estate division, will be urban affairs officer, overseeing housing and interfaith initiatives with a focus on low-income neighborhoods.

Although taking the politics out of hiring has been a longtime theme of his campaign, Mr. Peduto said he tapped Mr. Costa, who comes from an extensive political family, and Ms. McDonald-Roberts because he wanted advisers with deep experience in local government.

"Guy brings with him a level of government experience that a lot of these other people just don't have," he said. "We're going to try to blaze some new trails, but sometimes you need somebody who knows that jungle."

Lawyer Debbie Lestitian -- who served with Mr. Peduto on the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority before having a falling out with Mr. Ravenstahl -- will be chief administration officer, overseeing divisions such as personnel, the Citizens Police Review Board and mayoral appointments to city agencies.

Ms. Lestitian fought redevelopment plans on the North Shore when she believed parcels owned by the stadium authority were being undersold and was later removed by Mr. Ravenstahl following her vocal criticism of the developments. In July, Ms. Lestitian was called before a federal grand jury investigating city business. She declined comment about her testimony but said in a statement that she was subpoenaed to testify "as the former chair of the city of Pittsburgh Stadium Authority."

Mr. Peduto said her role in the investigation did not concern him, saying "With Debbie, integrity comes at the highest point."

Curtiss Porter, a Braddock native who is chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport, will be the chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer, a role he came to fill through a bit of serendipity. He met Mr. Peduto about a month ago to talk about ways to strengthen the relationship between the city and the campus he oversees, which is not far from the city, and said he discovered the two had a "mutual vision" for the city's future.

"I was really impressed with what Bill said about Pittsburgh being the next great American city," he said, and Mr. Peduto's "commitment to bringing the less economically sufficient areas of the city into that future."

Debra Lam, a global design and consulting expert, will be chief innovation and performance officer, overseeing city information systems, finance, Act 47 and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

Ms. Lam, a North Hills High School graduate and environmental sustainability expert for a London consulting firm, "has spent the last decade doing exactly what we're hiring her to do here," Mr. Acklin said, "and that's to find ways to work with cities to be innovative, to hold city workers accountable to performance standards, to drive data as a metric for our decisions."

Lourdes Sanchez Ridge, an attorney with Clark Hill Thorp Reed who specializes in white collar defense, has been chosen to serve as Mr. Peduto's solicitor and chief legal officer. A native of Cuba who was raised in the United States, she spent time in Florida as a prosecutor going after cocaine dealers, experience that impressed Mr. Peduto. But Mr. Acklin said he also expects Ms. Ridge, a Republican, to set a new standard for ethics in the city.

"She has spent most of her career doing exactly what we would like to have in the city's law department. That's setting the tone against fraud and corruption," he said.

Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

 


First Published November 7, 2013 10:30 AM

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