After 11 years of unbroken leadership in the mayor's office, Pittsburgh is entering a new and uncertain political phase. Mayor Richard Caliguiri, whose death Friday morning was attributed to heart failure, was immediately succeeded by City Council president Sophie Masloff.
She is the city's first female and first Jewish mayor, succeeding a string of five white, Roman Catholic males who have led the city since 1946.
In a brief press conference Friday, Mrs. Masloff said she would continue Mayor Caliguiri's policies while filling out his term, which ends Dec. 31, 1989. She did not make clear whether she will be only a transitional mayor or will campaign for a full term.
Until January, when she became City Council president, Masloff maintained she had no interest in holding the mayor's post, according to published reports.
``The old line is that politics abhors a vacuum,'' says Ben Hayllar, a former senior aide to Mayor Caliguiri. ``There are many, many people expecting to fill the void.''
Besides Masloff, those considered most likely to run for mayor in the next election include Allegheny County controller Frank Lucchino, city controller Tom Flaherty, and two City Council members, Michelle Madoff and Jack Wagner.
Whoever is elected mayor will have large shoes to fill. Mayor Caliguiri had earned widespread respect for keeping the financially-strapped Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team from moving out of the city and for presiding over ``Renaissance II,'' Pittsburgh's most recent downtown redevelopment and building boom.
His less visible achievements included a model home repair loan program for the city's aging housing stock, neighborhood revitalization, and improvements in city services, according to Mr. Hallyar, who is now vice-president of a Pittsburgh bank.
There has been uncertainty about the city's political future since last October, when Caliguiri announced he suffered from a rare disease that doctors considered incurable.
His heart failure was attributed to the disease.