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Huss last key Ravenstahl holdover without decision on his employment

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 1:06 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's first week in office accomplished hirings, firings and many public appearances, but the fate of one key holdover from the Ravenstahl administration remains uncertain.

As he announced he would, Peduto replaced nearly all of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's top staffers. He extended pink slips to three public works managers and indicated that Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski was on the way out.

The status of Public Safety Director Mike Huss — the highest-ranking remaining Ravenstahl official — was less clear. Peduto had a one-on-one meeting scheduled with Huss on Friday, but that was canceled because Peduto's earlier appointment ran late. Huss was in a meeting with other top directors and Peduto later in the day discussing city business, Peduto's spokeswoman said.

“Mayor Peduto has said (Huss) is one of the finalists (for Public Safety director),” said spokeswoman Sonya Toler. “No decision has been made.”

Huss declined to comment.

Jerry Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh, said Peduto has made a point to draw a distinction between his administration and Ravenstahl's. Toler, for example, has emailed reporters the mayor's daily public schedule, something Ravenstahl repeatedly refused to do.

“I think that's absolutely what he's trying to achieve. He was one of the harshest critics on the lack of openness of the Ravenstahl staff,” Shuster said. “Any smart administrator does what he did — make changes at the outset.

“Politically, you want to make sure any waves have subsided by the next election. He's had plenty of time to evaluate the city's needs.”

The new mayor made it a priority to be visible in neighborhoods. Peduto attended a meeting Friday in Homewood about a community-driven effort that's in its infancy — developing a tablet manufacturing facility there. The mayor campaigned on a promise to rebuild neighborhoods, consistently mentioning Homewood.

“This is my first formal meeting in Homewood as mayor, and it's not about a shooting or police relations. It's about bringing technology and manufacturing to Homewood. That's exactly what we need to be doing,” said Peduto, who spoke briefly but spent most of his half hour at the meeting listening to residents weigh in on the development idea.

He met or spoke throughout the week with state and federal officials, including Sen. Bob Casey, representatives from Gov. Tom Corbett's office and U.S. Attorney David Hickton, who is leading an ongoing federal investigation of city affairs.

Corbett's representatives left a meeting Friday with Peduto saying a decision is pending on the mayor's request that Pittsburgh remain under state financial oversight.

Fred Reddig, with the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said state officials discussed Act 47 financial recovery plan issues with Peduto and his goals for the city.

Staff writer Tom Fontaine contributed. Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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