Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will switch his office from one historic building to another in January.

Fitzgerald, who will be leaving elected office at the iconic Allegheny County Courthouse due to term limits, will move to The Terminal complex in the Strip District as the new president and CEO of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. Fitzgerald has served on the board of the 10-county regional planning agency during his 12 years as county executive, including as the board president for a two-year term that ended in 2021.

The agency moved its headquarters to the remodeled produce terminal building earlier this year to become one of the anchor tenants for the project.

Fitzgerald will replace Vincent Valdes, who is retiring at the end of the year after leading the agency since June 2020. Under federal law, the agency plays a key role in setting regional priorities for transportation projects that receive federal funding.

In addition, SPC is involved in broadband development, water and sewer issues, and economic development.

In an interview, Fitzgerald stressed that his role as head of SPC, where he will carry out policy set by the board, will be different from his county executive role, where he sets policy for the county. Additionally, he will lead a staff of about 50 at SPC concentrating mostly on transportation and development issues in the region rather than a billion-dollar county budget that oversees thousands of employees in diverse areas such as public works, human services, the court system and jail, the airport authority, public transit and economic development.

“It’s a good way to transition,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s certainly a different type of role. When this opened up, I thought it was an opportunity to use the skills I developed over the years to do good work for the 10-county region.

“I’m very fortunate and grateful for the opportunity.”

Fitzgerald said he always has tried to take a regional approach as county executive, noting his strong support for development of the Shell Polymers Monaca plant in neighboring Beaver County’s Potter Township. He said will do everything he can to make sure the agency is meeting the needs of not only the urban and suburban communities in Allegheny, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties but also the more rural areas such as Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Indiana, Greene and Lawrence counties.

That was the goal for Valdes as well, but he took office just as the pandemic began and didn’t get an extended opportunity to travel to all the counties as much as he would have liked because of the two-year health emergency, Fitzgerald said.

“We have to find out how to build on the assets each community has,” he said. “You couldn’t put a hydrogen hub in Lawrenceville, but you can put robotics there, and you can put a hub in Fayette or Greene County. Each place has a different role.”

Fitzgerald also noted that this is an opportune time to be involved in regional planning because of the massive amount of federal funding available in a variety of areas through the Biden administration’s infrastructure and economic stimulus efforts. He’s hopeful that the contacts and relationships he has built as county executive will pay off for the region when communities apply for their share of billions in discretionary federal funding.

In a news release announcing Fitzgerald’s appointment, Butler County Commissioner and SPC board chairwoman Leslie Osche said the board considered “a diverse group of candidates from the region and beyond” before choosing Fitzgerald.

“The board had several objectives when we launched the search process: to attract a candidate that intrinsically understood this region’s unique needs and characteristics, had a track record of leadership and growth cultivation, and would build upon the current strength, talent and consistency of the SPC staff,” said Osche. “… Rich Fitzgerald certainly exceeded the board’s robust qualifications and competencies.”

Before Fitzgerald became county executive, he spent 11 years as a county councilman, including eight years as council president. He previously founded and operated a water treatment services and equipment company.

Valdes, who wasn’t available for comment, came to SPC after spending 20 years with the Federal Transit Administration, where he rose to associate administrator in the Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation. The agency announced in its fall newsletter that he would retire at the end of the year to spend more time with his four grown children and extended family in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Leading SPC has been one of the highlights of my career,” Valdes said in the newsletter. “I’ve been fortunate to work alongside talented and dedicated professionals, and I know that the hard work this team does each and every single day positively impacts our local communities.”

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at