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90.5 WESA's collection of stories on race, diversity, LGBT, gender and age-related stories.

Peduto Says Change Is Constant, As Is His Administration’s Commitment To Diversity

Kevin Gavin
90.5 WESA

Five years in, Mayor Bill Peduto’s inner circle is constantly changing.

The most recent change came from Valerie McDonald-Roberts, whose departure as Pittsburgh’s first chief urban affairs officer was announced Christmas Eve. That leaves Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa as the only remaining member of the original cabinet.


Early in his term, Peduto boasted of having the most diverse administration in the city’s history. His cabinet originally included two African-Americans, an Asian-American woman, and a solicitor born in Cuba. Those staffers have left, and the Cabinet has shrunk: McDonald-Roberts herself told WESA that she may not be replaced, leaving the top echelon of city leaders without an African American. But on Thursday, Peduto told WESA's The Confluence that if anything, his administration is more diverse than when he began his administration in 2014.


“I think we have more diversity now with our directors, our assistant directors, our chiefs, our deputy chiefs, our assistant chiefs; even our boards, authorities and commissions,” he said. “I believe right now all but one member of the planning commission is a woman which has never happened in the city’s history before. We have three members of the URA out of five who are African American.”


Three positions of the original seven-member cabinet are currently vacant. Those positions include McDonald-Roberts' position, Curtiss Porter’s post as chief education and neighborhoods reinvestment officer and Debbie Lestitian’s position as chief administration officer and human resources director.


Peduto said such turnover was inevitable, and a reflection of his administration's strong hires.


"The danger of hiring talent is that talent will be recruited and so many of the people that have left the administration have accepted positions that pay well above my salary," he said.


But he added that he'd be staffing up in the months ahead.


"[W]e're looking at what the team needs are within the fifth floor and with the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment. We're looking for a new [chief financial officer] right now," he said. "We want to create a new [chief administrative officer], as well. And when we look at who will be filling those positions it will become more horizontal once again as we break the silo system of simply having directors in charge of departments.”


Peduto said he has used the "Rooney Rule" -- a Pittsburgh Steelers-inspired move to interview at least one person of color for top jobs -- when hiring directors and assistant directors. However, he did not do so for hiring his current Chief of Staff, Dan Gilman.


“We made the offer to one person and that was the person that accepted it,” Peduto said of Gilman, who had previously been Peduto's top aide when Peduto served on City Council. “We used the Rooney rule and in many cases have decided that the best candidate was the minority candidate.”