Allegheny County Council elects DeFazio president

by: Aaron Aupperlee, TribLIVE Updated:

PITTSBURGH - The newly elected president of Allegheny County Council does not anticipate major shake-ups on committees as he strives to keep everyone happy and working together.

Fellow council members elected John DeFazio, D-Shaler, as president on Thursday. An at-large member of council, DeFazio, 73, has been on the 15-member council since its inception in 2001.

“I just want to try to get everybody together and try to get something done,” DeFazio said.

(This article was written by Aaron Aupperlee, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

As president, DeFazio decides who will head council committees. He intends to keep people in their current roles, including Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, as vice president, and Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, as chair of the budget and finance committee.

Former President Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale, appointed Finnerty to head the committee, replacing longtime Chair Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, late last year. Martoni decided not to run for another two-year term as president.

DeFazio did not know what role Robinson would play on the budget and finance committee, noting the councilman withdrew from the council's Democratic caucus.

Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, challenged DeFazio for the presidency and asked to give a prepared four-page speech after accepting her nomination for president. DeFazio, who ran the meeting as head of the Democratic caucus, did not allow speeches.

“I thought this is America, where people have freedom of expression,” Heidelbaugh said after the meeting.

In her speech, which she handed to members of council, Heidelbaugh was critical of council members who she said acted as a rubber stamp for County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

DeFazio, nominated by Futules, received 11 votes for president, including those of Republicans Jan Rea of McCandless and Ed Kress of Shaler. Heidelbaugh, nominated by Robinson, received four votes.

New council members Kress and Tom Baker, R-Ross, were sworn in on Thursday.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.