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Pittsburgh's chief administrative officer will lead PWSA restructuring

Bob Bauder
| Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, 11:33 a.m.
Debbie Lestitian, who has served as Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief administrative officer, sits next to Guy Costa, Peduto's operations chief in December 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Debbie Lestitian, who has served as Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief administrative officer, sits next to Guy Costa, Peduto's operations chief in December 2013.

Pittsburgh's chief administration officer and human resources director is moving to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority where she will serve as chief legal counsel and more than double her salary, officials announced Friday.

Debbie Lestitian, 52, of Brookline will oversee restructuring of the troubled authority as PWSA's chief corporate counsel and chief of administration, a newly created position approved by the PWSA board late last year. Her annual salary will be $215,000, PWSA spokesman Will Pickering said.

Her resignation from the city — where she was scheduled to earn $106,686 in 2018 — is effective Sunday.

Lestitian has served as a Cabinet member in Peduto's administration since he took office in 2014.

“Anytime I've needed help, whether it be with finances, pension funds or personnel, Deb has always been there for me and the residents of the city of Pittsburgh,” Peduto said in a statement. “She's going to continue with that assistance, this time in implementing the wholesale changes needed at the fragile but improving water and sewer authority.”

Lestitian and Peduto, then a city councilman, bonded during a clash with former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl over the sale of North Shore parcels when both served as directors of the city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority.

Ravenstahl removed them from the board in 2009.

“Your confidence in me has been humbling and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have served as your designee in labor matters and to have chaired the Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund Board and the board of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority,” she wrote Peduto in her resignation letter. “My reputation within your administration has been that of a ‘fixer' and I believe that the greatest need for my abilities and experience now rests with the PWSA.”

Lestitian, who will resign as PWSA board chairwoman, could not be reached for comment.

She will focus on overhauling PWSA, which has been plagued for years with breaks in century old water and sewer pipes, high lead levels in water, billing errors and a turnover in top management, according to the Mayor's Office.

She is an attorney and a certified public accountant. She previously served as assistant treasurer at Carnegie Mellon University and has worked for the Downtown law firm of Rothman Gordon. She's also worked at Westinghouse and KPMG, a Downtown accounting firm.

Janet Manuel, the Deputy Director of Human Resources and Civil Service, will serve as acting director of the Human Resources Department.

Lestitian is the third top official to leave the Peduto administration this year. Kevin Acklin resigned as Peduto's chief of staff in early January to become chief legal counsel for People's Gas. Finance Director Paul Leger retired in January.

Former Councilman Dan Gilman now serves as chief of staff and city Treasurer Margaret Lanier replaced Leger.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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