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Pittsburgh mayor-elect Peduto boasts of diversity in executive team

His team

Kevin Acklin

Title: Chief of staff

Salary: $107,000

Responsibilities: Oversee development bodies, including City Planning, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, Sports & Exhibition Authority and the Stadium Authority

Age: 37

Residence: Squirrel Hill

Background: Partner in the law firm Saul Ewing.

Education: Graduated from Harvard University and earned his law degree from Georgetown University

Valerie McDonald-Roberts

Title: Chief urban affairs officer

Salary: $102,500

Responsibilities: Oversee housing, nonprofit and faith-based initiatives, including the Housing Authority and the Commission on Human Relations

Age: 58

Residence: Churchill

Background: Two decades as elected and public official, serving on Pittsburgh City Council, Pittsburgh Public Schools board; Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds; county real estate manager

Education: Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from University of Pittsburgh

Curtiss Porter

Title: Chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer

Salary: $102,500

Responsibilities: Oversee education, workforce training and neighborhood reinvestment initiatives

Age: 73

Residence: White Oak

Background: CEO and chancellor for 14 years at Penn State Greater Allegheny

Education: Graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, earning his doctorate from the university's School of Education, Department of Counseling Psychology

Debra Lam

Title: Chief innovation and performance officer

Salary: $102,500

Responsibilities: Oversee all technology, sustainability, performance and innovation functions of city government, with responsibilities over City Information Systems, Finance, Act 47 and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority

Age: 32

Residence: Ross

Background: Project manager and policy consultant at Arup, a global consulting and design firm

Education: Graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and earned a Master's in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley

Debbie Lestitian

Title: Chief administration officer

Salary: $102,500

Responsibilities: Oversee Personnel & Civil Service, Finance, the Citizen Police Review Board and the Office of Municipal Investigations, as well as mayoral appointments to boards, authorities and commissions

Age: 48

Residence: Brookline

Background: Assistant treasurer at Carnegie Mellon University

Education: Undergraduate degree in accounting from Washington & Jefferson College and law degree from Duquesne University

Guy Costa

Title: Chief operations officer

Salary: $102,500

Responsibilities: Oversee Public Works, Parks & Recreation, Parking Authority and operations of Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority

Age: 57

Residence: Squirrel Hill

Background: Worked 17 years with Allegheny County's Department of Economic Development, Department of Public Works and the Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

Education: Undergraduate degree from Duquesne University

Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge

Title: Solicitor

Salary: $105,000

Responsibilities: Oversee all legal and ethical functions of city government, with responsibilities over the Law Department, Ethics Hearing Board and the Office of Municipal Investigations

Age: 52

Residence: Upper St. Clair

Background: Attorney at Clark Hill Thorp Reed and former chair of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Education: Undergraduate degree from University of Miami, law degree from University of Florida

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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 10:21 a.m.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto said on Thursday that his new administration will be the most diverse group ever to occupy a Pittsburgh mayor's office.

Peduto, 49, of Point Breeze announced that four women and three men will occupy top posts in his office. They include two blacks, a woman born in Cuba and a woman fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese whose parents are Chinese immigrants. He described all as elite.

“I think they all come from a background in business, law and government,” said Peduto, who takes office in January. “They would all be considered at the top of their fields. I would put this team up against ... any team.”

Kevin Acklin, 37, a cum laude graduate of Harvard University and partner in the law firm Saul Ewing, will serve as chief of staff.

Curtiss Porter, 73, chancellor of the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport, will be the mayor's liaison to Pittsburgh Public Schools as chief education and neighborhoods reinvestment officer.

“I believe in (Peduto's) vision. I believe he's articulated a vision that brings the whole of Pittsburgh forward,” said Porter, who has served as chancellor for 14 years. “There are communities where recent progress has left them behind.”

Porter lives in White Oak but said he plans to move to Bloomfield before he starts in January.

Observers praised Peduto's choices.

Malik Bankston, longtime community activist and executive director of the nonprofit civic group Kingsley Association, said the team is a sign that Peduto intends to modernize city government. He said it shows Peduto plans to give segments of the city — including blacks, Asians and Hispanics — an opportunity to help shape Pittsburgh's future.

Bankston said other cities have found that diversity is good for government and business. Pittsburgh has lagged in that area, he said.

“We hear all the time this thing about Pittsburgh being the most livable city, but the most livable city for whom?” he said.

Peduto delivered on a campaign promise that he would build a team reflective of Pittsburgh's ethnic makeup. He said he made choices based on ability.

In some cases, he said, he already knew them. Guy Costa was his campaign manager. As chief operations officer, Costa will oversee public works, parks and recreation, and the parking and water and sewer authorities.

Others came to him by chance. Former Mayor Tom Murphy recommended Debra Lam, who will be chief innovation and performance officer. Peduto said “serendipity” brought him Porter. The two started talking at a meeting, he said.

Four of the seven appointees live outside the city, but all agreed to abide by a residency requirement for employees and move to Pittsburgh by January.

Diversity hasn't been a priority for past mayors, according to Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This is not an accidental thing on his part,” Shuster said. “Obviously, he's taken the time and effort to make this an administrative team with a focus on gender, ethnic and racial balance.”

The key, he said, is whether Peduto based his choices also on ability, as he said he did.

“I think it's a great team and I think Peduto should be congratulated for the universality of the focus of the team that he has assembled,” he said. “Again, a lot of this depends on how thoroughly each of these people were vetted. They have to be able to do the job.”

Constance Parker, president of Pittsburgh's NAACP chapter, said the most important thing is what Peduto's team does to improve the city.

“I don't care who he puts in the seat,” she said. “Will it change the violence in our streets? Will it change unemployment? Will it change the hatred and racism that's out there?”

Voters on Tuesday elected Peduto, a city councilman since 2002, in a landslide over Republican Josh Wander and independent Les Ludwig. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl opted not to run for re-election in March, under the cloud of a federal corruption investigation that has reached close to the mayor's office.

Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report. Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or




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