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First Phase of Hiring of New City Workforce Begins

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

With the posting of more than two dozen job openings on Talent-City.org, the first phase of the process of hiring new top-level Pittsburgh city workers was launched Tuesday.  

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is calling it a unique effort.

“This is something that is going to be transformative for Pittsburgh and where we are going for the next few years,” said Peduto. “This city is at a great transition, and we don’t even know yet where it is going to take us.”

Peduto’s transition team handed over to the Pittsburgh Foundation 30 job descriptions and the keys to much of the selection process. 

Applicants will submit their resumes, which will then be passed through several professional search organizations. Applicants who rise to the top in that stage will be reviewed by teams of volunteers who where recruited by the foundation. The candidates recommended by those teams will be passed though a final group of reviewers to make sure there has been no political favoritism among the three to five names handed over to the new administration.

“If they are not happy with any of the candidates who are brought to them, they have the right to ask us to go back and re-open the search and look for new candidates, but what we have agreed is they will not go outside the process and simply hire from outside of it,” said Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation.

Oliphant and Peduto said although this model has been employed in Philadelphia and Denver, it has never been used to this extent. Peduto noted that just taking this approach shows a new government is on the horizon.

“When we first announced this an old political warhorse, a good friend, called Kevin Acklin, my chief of staff, and said, ‘You guys are crazy, you’re giving away all of your power,’” Peduto said. 

His answer was, “Any time you can trade talent for power, I’ll take that trade.”

There are about 140 jobs that serve at the will of the mayor, according to Peduto, but fewer than half of them will rise to the level of being posted on the site. Positions like crossing guard will not go through the site, but anything with a salary of more than $70,000 will. 

Among the jobs on the site; Assistant Chief of Building Inspections, Director of City Planning, Budget Office Director and Public Safety Director. 

Public Safety Director is the last cabinet level position to be filled by Peduto, the other top-level administrators were all named two weeks ago. The filling of that position will eventually lead to the hiring of a new police chief, which Peduto said will not be rushed. In fact, he does not think he will have a new chief in place until May at the earliest. 

He said he would approach that position on two parallel tracks. The first includes reaching out to public safety experts and officers within the bureau to come up with a list of characteristics of a good chief. The second track would involve reaching out to the residents of Pittsburgh to hear what they would like to see in a new police chief.

Historically, when a new chief is chosen, the candidates have all come from within the ranks. Peduto said he is willing to look within the bureau, but he thinks it might be time to look outside the city.

“With the level of scrutiny that has been happening in the past year, it may be better to look from outside, to bring in somebody who is fresh and does not have any connections to any of the other groups within the bureau,” said Peduto, who is referring to the ongoing federal investigation into the misuse of city funds by police personnel.

All of the current city employees who hold the jobs listed Tuesday have been notified and invited to re-apply.  The process could result in massive turnover among some of the most important positions in city hall.  However, Peduto said he thinks there will be enough institutional knowledge to keep the city running.

He also does not think there will be much friction when long-time employees start to take orders from new hires.

“The morale within city work force is so low,” Peduto said. “People just want a fair opportunity; the city work force just want to be heard. There are a lot of solutions from the people working there that are not making their way up,” said Peduto, who contends he is stopped every day on the way into his City Council office by workers who tell he they cannot wait for the new administration to take control.

The search process is being paid for by a $275,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 15. Peduto hopes to use the same process in the coming months to find new board and commission members.