Pittsburgh councilman Dowd resigning seat to head new children’s nonprofit
Patrick Dowd, a father of five, never stopped helping kids, even after leaving his job as a teacher and his seat on the Pittsburgh school board.
An ardent supporter of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program as a member of City Council, Dowd on Monday announced he will resign from council next month to head a new nonprofit, Allies for Children, on the North Side.
“There are great (child) advocacy efforts going on. We need to power up that effort,” said Dowd, 45, of Highland Park.
Dowd is serving his second, four-year council term. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009 and served on the school board from 2003 to 2007. He was a teacher before being elected to council.
Plans for the group are sketchy, but Dowd said it would work to advance President Obama’s platform to expand early childhood education.
“The time is now to support all children at every age,” said Michelle Figlar, executive director of the Pittsburgh Conference for the Development of Young Children, who attended an announcement of Dowd’s plans at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School, Downtown.
Dowd stressed that Allies would partner with other groups to broaden their voice. One could be A+ Schools, a watchdog for Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“We’re looking forward to working with Patrick,” said Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools. “He’s been an ally on City Council, the school board and as a parent.”
Based in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Allies will receive funding from The Heinz Endowments, United Way of Allegheny County and the Grable and Pittsburgh foundations.
“They’ve gone about the work of getting an outstanding candidate to lead Allies from its start,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation.
Dowd’s departure will leave a key opening on council. A vocal opponent of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, he represents Lawrenceville, Highland Park, Morningside, Stanton Heights, Polish Hill, Bloomfield, East Liberty and Garfield.
“I think he can take the experience of his work on the school board and mix it with the politics of City Hall and put that to work,” said Councilman Bill Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor.
Ravenstahl set aside political differences to praise Dowd’s passion for children.
“He was an early supporter of The Pittsburgh Promise when few of us fully understood the magnitude of the impact it could have on our students and their opportunity to achieve success,” the mayor said in an email from spokeswoman Stephanie Sikora.
Peduto said he could think of 12 possible replacements for Dowd but would not identify any. Lauren Byrne, executive director of the community group Lawrenceville United in Dowd’s district and a former Ravenstahl staffer, said she was surprised and saddened to see Dowd leave. She would not say whether she is interested in the post.
Former City Councilman Len Bodack, Democratic chairman of the 10th Ward, declined to say whether he would seek the seat again.
If Dowd officially resigns July 9 or later, a special election could be held on Nov. 5, the date of the municipal election, said Allegheny County Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik. Peduto expects that City Council President Darlene Harris will try to schedule the special election on Nov. 5 to save the city money.
Harris declined to comment before receiving official notification from Dowd that he is resigning.
The last council member to resign was Twanda Carlisle, who left in 2007 after being convicted of taking kickbacks.