Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto has rolled out the names of those who will fill key positions in his administration and the list is a mix of well-known political names, high-profile business leaders, and a few new faces.
“It reflects the most diverse mayor’s office in Pittsburgh’s history,” said Peduto of his “executive team,” which is majority minority. “But more importantly, it’s the highest level of talent that a mayor’s office has been able to recruit.”
Peduto has chosen Kevin Acklin to serve as his Chief of Staff and Chief Development Officer. Acklin played a key role in Peduto’s campaign and ran for Pittsburgh mayor as an independent in 2009 against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
The South Oakland native now lives in Squirrel Hill after having lived for a time in Boston. Along with managing the executive team, Acklin will be expected to oversee all development activity in the city while keeping an eye on a long list of authorities.
In announcing his selections for six other top positions, Peduto signaled a change in how the administration would be structured compared to past administrations. The posts include titles like Chief Innovation and Performance Officer, Chief Urban Affairs Officer, and Chief Education & Neighborhood Reinvestment Officer.
That last post will go to Curtiss Porter who is currently Chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny. After serving a stint in the Air Force, the Pittsburgh native spent time in several cities hold teaching positions, corporate jobs, and leadership roles at non-profits.
“Porter will oversee all education, workforce training, and neighborhood reinvestment initiatives of city government, will serve as the mayor’s liaison to Pittsburgh Public Schools, together with responsibilities over the Equal Opportunity & Review Commission,” said Peduto in a move that could indicate a desire to have more influence over the school board which is currently a stand-alone organization.
The Urban Affairs position was handed to long-time Pittsburgh politician Valerie McDonald-Roberts. McDonald-Roberts has served on the Pittsburgh City Council, Pittsburgh Public School Board and in two positions within the Allegheny County government.
Peduto expects McDonald-Roberts to oversee “all housing, non-profit and faith based initiatives of city government… with a particular focus on underserved neighborhoods.”
“She is a person who is able to walk into any of the factions within any of the communities and in particular within the African American community. Too many times things don’t get done because there is division among community members,” Peduto said. “She is somebody who is respected by all sides.”
Another political insider among those named Thursday is Guy Costa. The former Pittsburgh Public Works director will serve as Chief Operations Officer. Costa has also directed the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and worked in the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.
“I get sworn in on a Monday, and on Wednesday if we get 17 inches of snow I want Guy Costa there, that’s the bottom line,” Peduto said. “It never hurts to have a Costa on your team at any time.”
Peduto said it was important to have McDonald Roberts and Costa on the team.
“Because I need a couple of people whop have been down that path before. We are going to try to blaze some new trails but sometimes you needs someone who knows that jungle,” Peduto said.
Among the relatively new faces holding a newly created post will be Debra Lam. She was chosen by Peduto to serve as Chief Innovation & Performance Officer. Lam will oversee all technology, sustainability, performance, and innovation functions within the city.
The North Hills native has lived and worked in New York, the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in various strategic planning positions.
Rounding out the staff is Debbie Lestitian as Chief Administration Officer, and Lourdes Sanchez Ridge as Solicitor & Chief Legal Officer.
Ridge is a native of Cuba who came to the U.S when she was 6 years old. She is currently an attorney at Clark Hill Thorp Reed.
Peduto says he will turn to the Talent City effort launched last month by the Pittsburgh Foundation to find department heads. He will also use that website to help fill his 8th and final cabinet-level position of Public Safety Chief.