Peduto nominates Pitt professors, city official to fill three vacant PWSA board seats


Mayor Bill Peduto speaks about his plan to distribute free lead filters January 31. Friday, Peduto named three nominations to fill the vacant positions on the PWSA board. James Evan Bowen-Gaddy | Contributing Editor

Mayor Bill Peduto nominated three people to fill vacant positions on the board of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Friday — two of whom are Pitt professors.

The nominees will fill spots left by three board members who all resigned in late March, although their terms officially ended at the end of 2016. A March 22 release from the mayor’s office said Peduto “extended invitations to proposed new board members” and expected announcements the following week.

Peduto didn’t make an announcement until Friday, one month later, when he nominated Debbie Lestitian, Chaton Turner and Jim Turner to the PWSA board, subject to approval by City Council.

The nominees include two Pitt professors — Jim Turner, who has previously served as the city’s budget director, finance director and chief administrative officer and is now an adjunct professor at the Pitt Graduate School of Public and International Affairs — and Chaton Turner, who is an adjunct professor at Pitt Law School and a UPMC lawyer.

Debbie Lestitian, Peduto’s chief administration officer and personnel director, is the third nominee. She has more than 20 years of business, law and public service experience, according to the city’s press release.

In a press release Friday, Peduto said he wished to extend his gratitude to the nominees, who will be facing “systemic challenges facing the PWSA” if confirmed as board members.

“There is a great amount of work ahead, and they will help us accomplish all we need to do,” he said.

PWSA discovered dangerously high lead levels in the city’s water last July after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered the PWSA to run tests. Ten percent of homes tested had lead levels of over 22 parts per billion, well over the 15 parts per billion action level required by federal law.

Peduto announced a $1 million investment in March to provide lead filters to Pittsburgh homes affected by high lead levels. The city has yet to announce a time frame for distributing the filters.

Jim Turner said he has been following the city’s issues publicly, and hopes to come up with positive solutions for them using his experience in financial analysis if he is confirmed for the board.

He doesn’t have any solid plans yet for what he will do if he becomes a board member — he first wishes to learn more about his new role and the problems he will be working to address.

“I want to go in with an open mind and learn as much as I can before I begin addressing any problems,” he said. “I don’t want to just jump to conclusions on how a problem should be solved.”

Chaton Turner also said she plans to become more familiar with her new duties before deciding how to approach the issues at the PWSA.

“If and when I start, I want to dive deeper into the challenges PWSA is facing from an internal perspective to understand the issues before I identify specific solutions,” she said.

Chaton Turner said her analytical work as an attorney will aid her in what she will do as a PWSA board member.

“Every day I analyze complex problems and find solutions for them as a part of my job,” she said. “I’m in a unique position now to do that for my community.”