Two minutes before 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Barb Warwick was sworn in as the newest member of Pittsburgh City Council, promising to continue to listen to the residents of District 5 and bring them the kinds of improvements they want to see. 

Her first official action as a councilmember will come Tuesday morning, when the body holds a line-item vote of Mayor Ed Gainey’s nearly $660 million operating budget. 

“We know that building the Pittsburgh of the future doesn’t mean anything if it ignores the voices and the needs of the people living in Pittsburgh today,” she said in her acceptance speech.

A 14-year resident of “The Run,” a 4-mile section of Greenfield underneath the Parkway East, she got her start in local politics by working with activist groups fighting against the Mon-Oakland Connector project.

The project was a way to directly connect Oakland and Hazelwood by building a shuttle road through Schenley Park. Gainey halted the project earlier this year, after a six-year battle among developers, the city and local activists. 

“It was more than just a shuttle road through a public park,” Warwick said during her speech. “It was about people and communities coming together and demanding a say in how our money is spent. Because we know what’s best for our communities.”

She talked in her acceptance speech about what next steps could be for District 5. Some of these ideas include bringing a grocery store to Hazelwood, building a playground for Greenfield school students, and a recreational and senior center in the 31st Ward. 

Warwick wants to add more traffic-calming measures and improve public transit across the district so people can get around more easily and without the use of cars. 

As a first-time public official, Warwick said all of these goals also came with a level of nerves.

She was asking herself if she was going to be able to deliver on “all this community-driven, for-the-people, by-the-people governance model that we’ve been talking about for so long.”

Since winning her election on Nov. 8, Warwick has attended every council session to get a lay of the land. 

“I want you to know that my door is always open. You have my ear,” she told the crowd Monday. “While I can’t promise that we’ll always agree, or that we’ll get everything all at once, what I can promise you is that you will always know where I stand. And that my staff and I will be proactive and persistent.”

Warwick’s swearing in has returned the legislative body to a full complement after former Councilman Corey O’Connor vacated his seat and Gov. Tom Wolf appointed him Allegheny County controller.

At the beginning of her acceptance speech, Warwick thanked O’Connor for his service to the people.

“We all owe him a debt of gratitude,” she said. 

Warwick had begun campaigning for the seat even before O’Connor had officially resigned to take over his new role.

In the more than 100-year history of the council, Warwick will be the body’s 13th female councilor and will return the body to a four-women, five-men split that it has seen numerous times in the past. 

Council President Theresa Kail-Smith noted it had been a number of years since that split, and the last time it had happened “we caused some shakeups around here.”

“I’m looking forward to shaking things up with you,” Kail-Smith told Warwick during the ceremony, earning many cheers from attendees. 

Other notable local politicians joined the crowd at the swearing-in ceremony, including O’Connor, Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak standing in for Gainey, state Sen. Jay Costa, City Controller Michael Lamb and Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam.

Barb Warwick, of Greenfield, stands at the front of Pittsburgh City Council chambers shortly after taking her oath of office as the new District 5 councilor on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. (Hallie Lauer/Pittsburgh Union Progress)
Hallie Lauer

Hallie is the City Hall reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.

Hallie Lauer

Hallie is the City Hall reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.