When Luke Ravenstahl became mayor of Pittsburgh in September 2006 following the death of Bob O’Connor, many people wondered if Ravenstahl would possess the maturity to lead the region’s largest city. After all, he was 26 and just a couple of years removed from being a captain of the Washington & Jefferson College football team.
The answer came soon enough: No.
Though Ravenstahl’s unexpected ascendancy to Pittsburgh’s highest office made him an object of both sympathy and novelty – he was, you’ll recall, a guest on “The Late Show with David Letterman” – it became apparent quickly that Ravenstahl could have used a tad more seasoning before stepping into the office once occupied by heavyweights like David L. Lawrence and Pete Flaherty.
Granted, the city did not crumble into the three rivers while Ravenstahl was at the helm, and Allegheny County itself was ably administered during his tenure by Dan Onorato and Rich Fitzgerald. And Ravenstahl himself has said the greatest achievement of his seven years as mayor was the creation of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program, a worthy endeavor that helps open the door to higher education for students who attend the city’s schools.
Still, one wonders how much more could have been accomplished with a more experienced and grown-up hand steering the ship.
More likely to be remembered than the Pittsburgh Promise is Ravenstahl celebrating his 30th birthday with his buddies at Seven Springs Resort in February 2010 while more than 20 inches of snow was being dumped on the region, or commandeering a police SUV to go to a Toby Keith concert. Since doing a sudden about-face and announcing he would not run for re-election last March, Ravenstahl has receded from the public eye to such an extent that his constituents might have believed he had retreated to a monastery in outer Mongolia for cleansing and repentance. But the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in October that on one workday, true to form, Ravenstahl spent hours at a golf course.
The Ravenstahl era ends Monday with the swearing-in of Bill Peduto as Pittsburgh mayor. Whether Peduto will be good, bad or indifferent is an open question. But he will almost certainly carry out his duties with more dignity and wisdom than his predecessor.