An innovator, by definition, is a person who introduces something new whether it’s an idea, a policy, a product or a way of doing things. In this case it’s a risk taker who is shaking things up, making necessary changes and adapting new technology to better get things done.
Whether you like our newly elected mayor or not, agree with his policies or not, think he’s the city’s savior or not—it’s hard to dispute the idea that Mayor Bill Peduto is an innovator.
Based on Mayor Peduto’s track record thus far, the impact his office has on our city and his potential for continued innovation in 2015, we are pleased to announce Mayor Bill Peduto as the NEXT Innovator for 2015. It’s the first of what will be an annual award from NEXTpittsburgh in recognition of progress so far and the potential for what’s next.
A year ago today, Peduto was inaugurated as our city’s 60th mayor. During the ceremony, the CAPA choir sang an a capella rendition of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” followed by an audience sing-along of Mr. Rogers’ theme song led by Joe Grushecky on his electric guitar.
Vanessa German performed a spoken word poem that brought the audience to their feet, high school marching bands played, leaders from five different faiths conducted ceremonial proceedings and the parents of Paul Sciullo, the young officer slain in 2009, held the Bible as Peduto took his oath of office.
From those first moments, Peduto both embraced tradition and eschewed convention; he showed substance, creativity and a unique style. And in the past twelve months, Peduto has proved to be a proactive mayor attempting to rewrite the book on Pittsburgh, from being the first mayor in city history to publish his daily schedule online to officiating the first same-sex wedding to naming the city’s first Chief Innovation and Performance Officer.
“He’s a hugely ambitious mayor with a progressive agenda,” says Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant.
“In a world that is coming at us at lightning speed, it’s critical to have mayors who can see around the corner and take risks to keep up with the fast-paced environment that is challenging every elected official of the country, especially mayors,” says Lee Fisher, President and CEO of CEOs for Cities and former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio. “You need to have an attitude in your administration that first, you’re willing to listen to new ideas; second, you’re willing to put human and financial resources toward implementing the ideas and third, you’re willing to risk failure in order to keep innovating. It comes naturally for Mayor Peduto.”
Being a mayor is an extremely challenging job—he spends more time putting out fires than accomplishing objectives, said one person—and we recognize that Peduto is still in the honeymoon phase of his term. But in a short year, Peduto has shown he is willing to try an impressive number of new ideas, many quite innovative.
“He’s always been an idea person,” says Jon Delano, politics editor at KDKA. “It almost doesn’t matter whether the ideas work or don’t work, he’s going to throw many out to make them happen. He prefers acting to sitting back and managing things.”
That’s preferable to someone who refuses to embrace change, says Delano. “He’s so new at mayor that there’s no way to judge his innovations. What we will find in years to come is that some were fabulous and others didn’t work. It’s not a negative on him, it’s just what happens when you have someone who’s willing to try anything and everything.”
“Obviously there’s push back on any new idea—there always is,” says Merrill Stabile, president of Alco Parking. “But I applaud him for making things happen. Refinement is the next step—the challenge to refine the idea after it’s been analyzed properly.”
Plenty of challenges lie ahead but for now it’s time to recognize some highlights of Peduto’s past year by theme and hope for more to come.
Open Call: Peduto blew open the doors when hiring his administration, posting 45 job positions through Talent City, an initiative created by The Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics. The intention? To bring objectivity, transparency and rigorous hiring practices to the city leadership. Any and all could apply. Trading “power for talent,” his administration overhauled law and justice and hired the solicitor and chief legal officer, the director of internal investigation, the public safety director and the police chief.