Civic News

Gainey’s latest gov appointments hint at how he’ll prioritize the tech industry

From the Department of Innovation and Performance to a new director of economic development, here are the people Mayor Ed Gainey will have in charge of shaping civic tech.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.

(Photo by Matt Cashore)

With new director nominations and appointments, Pittsburgh’s new mayor is solidifying leadership in civic tech, and hinting at how he’ll prioritize the local tech industry in his plans for the city.

In the latest move of his new position, Mayor Ed Gainey today announced his nominations for the director of innovation and performance, director of city planning and director of economic development. The first and last of those are directly tied to partnerships between the City of Pittsburgh and the local tech industry, though the city planning role also has relevance to the continued development of new tech-focused developments like Hazelwood Green, Rockwell Park and Robotics Row in the Strip District.

The mayor’s nominees for the I&P and city planning department roles will need to be confirmed by City Council, while his nomination for the economic development position is an automatic appointment that will be effective starting on Jan. 31.

Gainey’s nominee for the director of I&P role is Heidi Norman, the current acting director and CIO of the department. Norman’s held her current position since the departure of Santiago Garces in 2020, and previously worked as the deputy director of innovation and performance since 2017. This nomination, if approved, will make her role permanent after a little over a year of serving as acting director.

Last year, Norman was nominated for one of the inaugural Technical.ly Awards in Pittsburgh, in the category of CTO of the Year. She’s widely known in the tech community as a leader for civic tech collaborations, the promotion of open data and the continued updating of online city programs, like the Dashburgh open data platform.

While serving as acting director of the department, Norman collaborated with Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh to provide an open data platform through the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and worked closely with Carnegie Mellon University and its Metro 21 Institute to “advance the research, development, and deployment of novel SmartCities solutions,” a press release said of her work in the department so far. The release also noted her role in advancing cybersecurity of civic infrastructure for Pittsburgh, and that maintaining the privacy and safety of online city systems will be a primary responsibility of the role.

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Nominated as Gainey’s director of city planning is Karen Abrams, who previously worked as the program officer for equitable development for The Heinz Endowments. Before that, Abrams worked for the city as the community and diversity affairs manage for the Urban Redevelopment Authority. If confirmed, Abrams will be responsible for overseeing land projects across the city, and ensuring that priorities include sustainability, equity, design, resilience and opportunity.

Finally, Gainey’s appointment for the director of economic development is Kyle Chintalapalli, who previously served as VP of business and economic development for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. There, he led business investment and attraction activities for the PRA across the technology, innovation, life sciences and real estate sectors, a press release noted. Prior to that position, Chintalapalli worked as the chief strategy officer for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, where he was a colleague of Gainey’s.

While it remains to be seen exactly how Gainey will promote the growth of the tech industry throughout his term, these nominations all suggest a continuation of former mayor Bill Peduto’s agenda, with an added focus on equity and sustainability. Norman’s promotion to a permanent position, in particular, suggests that the Gainey administration will continue pushing for open data, updated civic technical infrastructure and collaborations with the private sector and entrepreneurship communities through projects like PGH Lab.

The other two nominations announced in the release also indicate plans to promote Pittsburgh as a tech and innovation hub, while also making sure to benefit everyone locally with that success — a combined priority of the PRA and URA.

“All of these individuals bring a wide range of experience in and outside public service, a deep commitment to making government work better, and a strong investment in building a Pittsburgh for all,” Gainey said in a prepared statement. “I am pleased to announce their nominations and appointments and I know they will serve our city well.”

Both Norman’s and Abrams’ nominations are expected to be confirmed by City Council.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: City of Pittsburgh
People: Ed Gainey
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