Invited Essay: Open Letter to Evanston Mayor and City Council on City Manager Search

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To Mayor Daniel Biss and the Evanston City Council:

As we enter the next chapter in Evanston’s increasingly desperate quest to find a new city manager, a reassessment is in order. Why do we seem to be unable to find candidates who meet our needs and who really want the job?

Our advice:

  • Make anti-racism and fairness indispensable and fundamental in the selection process.
  • Articulate a job description based on the values ​​and qualities residents have said they want.
  • Work with a firm that prioritizes racial equity and anti-racism, and has the track record to prove it.
  • Don’t make hiring decisions, even for an interim city manager, without a fully public process.

How we got here:

Wally Bobkiewicz served as city manager for 10 years. Although some praised him for his promotion of Evanston’s business and commercial interests, his tenure saw multiple instances of racial bias in our Police, Human Resources and Parks Departments. The city was forced to resolve numerous lawsuits, totaling almost $2 million.

Bobkiewicz presided over vicious attempts to cut social service programs from the budget, to dismantle the highly effective and life-saving Department of Youth and Young Adult Services, and the city’s Victim Advocates, who help survivors of sexual assaults and domestic violence. These policies disproportionately affected the Black and Latinx communities.

After Bobkiewicz’s departure, then-Mayor Stephen Hagerty and several Council members attempted to hire interim manager and Bobkiewicz acolyte Erika Storlie (who was responsible for firing youth and young adult director Kevin Brown on the flimsiest of pretexts). ) without a national search or public input.

After a public outcry, the city hired GovHR and, through an open process, identified two excellent Black candidates with excellent credentials, who gave impressive interviews at City Hall, compared to the lackluster performance of Ms. Storlie. However, the Council opted to select Storlie the day after City Hall, with barely a glance at the results of public polls and stakeholder interviews.