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On Nov. 7, Democrat Sara Innamorato won the race to become the new Allegheny County executive, beating Republican Joe Rockey with 51.1% of the vote.

The role, currently held by Rich Fitzgerald, is considered one of the most powerful in Pennsylvania government, as it oversees the state’s second-largest county.

Innamorato’s path

Since the first time Innamorato, a former state representative, was elected to office in 2018, she gained popularity for her progressive stances such as support for unions, encouraging government transparency, expansion of public transit access and advocacy for affordable housing measures within Pittsburgh. During her executive campaign, she received support from fellow progressives, with endorsements from the likes of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, Emily’s List, Clean Water Action and even Jane Fonda’s Climate PAC.

Innamorato became the first woman to be elected to the position, in which she’ll manage county government agencies, finances, projects and services. Innamorato said during her election night speech that she promises to use her new position to build a more inclusive Allegheny County, and to call on the connections she made throughout her campaign to take the county to the next level.

What tech leaders want reached out to leaders in the Pittsburgh technology sector prior to the election results being called to hear how they hoped to work with the new official.

InnovatePGH President and CEO Sean Luther said he hoped for a county executive who’d be willing to rethink how the county’s economic development tools could help Pittsburgh make the transition to a knowledge-based economy. Additionally, Luther said, he wanted the next county executive to be interested in pushing the county forward while identifying ways for residents to grow through innovation and research assets such as Hazelwood Green.

“The county government, and the county executive by extension, has a substantial role in the tech-based workforce development system,” Luther said in an email. “I look forward to supporting the next county executive in the workforce space; potentially as an extension of our Innovation District Skills Alliance and Expanded Pathways to Entrepreneurship programs.”

One strong tie to the office: In July, InnovatePGH’s now-former director of workforce strategies, Lindsay Powell, secured the Democratic nomination in a race for the state House seat Innamorato left to run for county executive. Powell won a special election to the position in September.

In Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman’s view, having a county executive with a vision for regional success that takes shape through collaborations with local partners and stakeholders will be necessary for future growth. In the past, Pashman said, Fitzgerald used partnerships wisely to the county’s benefit, and she hopes the next person in the office will do the same.

“It’s our hope that the next Allegheny County executive will work to create an open-for-business mindset that reflects the efforts at the state level and that this leader will be focused on inclusively growing Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy, resulting in an improved economic future and quality of life for everyone,” Pashman said.

Tech questions for the next exec

Earlier this fall, sent both county executive candidates five questions about their policies related to tech talent, digital access and business growth in the county. They reflect the challenges and opportunities the county’s new leader will face.

  • What efforts would you make to expand access to technology and internet across Allegheny County, including to the 12.4% of households who lack a broadband subscription?
  • What role would your administration have in advancing workforce development and STEM education for fast-growing industries such as technology, life sciences and healthcare?
  • How would your administration use technology, such as AI or other new tools, to make city government more effective, efficient and accessible?
  • What would you do to attract new talent to Allegheny County and retain remote workers?
  • What specific changes would you make to support the start and growth of new businesses in Allegheny County?

Innamorato’s team didn’t respond before our deadline.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 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.

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