Residents press for involvement in city manager recruitment

Yuxing Zheng

Now that Evanston aldermen have chosen a firm to vet candidates to be the new city manager, citizens have a chance to tell the city what they are looking for, one alderman said.

“If I were a citizen and I knew the City Council was considering a new city manager, I would quickly go in front of the council and say, ‘These are the qualities and characteristics the council should look for in a new city manager,'” said Ald. Gene Feldman (9th). “And we would, in turn, if the council decided those were valid and reasonable, we would ask the search firms to look for people with those qualifications.”

The chosen company, Slavin Management Consultants, will be paid up to $20,000 to search for a replacement for retiring City Manager Roger Crum, said Mayor Lorraine H. Morton. Slavin, a Georgia-based company, was chosen last week over six other firms.

Company president Robert Slavin said during a March council meeting that the next step will include interviews with individual aldermen about what they want in a new city manager.

Feldman said he is looking for a city manager who has experience in handling labor relations, working in a college town, working with strong and independent council members and encouraging economic development.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said the new city manager must be able to handle town-gown issues as well as Evanston’s diversity.

“Evanston is a very diverse community in many ways,” Moran said. “The new city manager has to be a person who is smart enough and able enough and skilled enough to work with all different kinds of people.”

But aldermen may not be the only ones involved in the process. Moran suggested the possibility of a mayor-appointed panel with representatives from the community that would develop a set of characteristics to be included in a profile of the ideal candidate. The panel would also meet with the finalists.

Three citizen groups, including the League of Women Voters, have already asked Morton to ensure that citizens have a say in the search. Sue Brady, a League member, said her group urged Morton to appoint a citizens’ committee to meet with Slavin’s final candidates.

“It’s kind of a reciprocal thing,” said Cheryl Wollin, another League member. “It would be good for the candidates to see what the community needs and it would be good for the community to give input to the council and the mayor about which candidate they best think reflects the needs of Evanston.”

Evanston resident Tom Gittings said he would be interested in providing input during the search process. “If I get integrity and honesty, that’s all I ask for,” he said.

As well as conducting Evanston’s city manager search, Slavin also is looking for a new Dallas, police chief, said Dallas Assistant City Manager Charles Daniels.

“(Slavin) has made a lot of individual and personal contact with people to get them to personally apply for the position,” Daniels said. “We had a cross-section of people from all over the country, different ethnic backgrounds, different experience levels, large cities, small cities.”

Robert Slavin, president of Slavin, declined to comment on the specifics of either the search.

Crum, the current city manager, has been in his position for eight years. In January he announced plans to retire.

“Roger (Crum) hopes to leave at the end of June,” Morton said. “If we run into some kind of snag, he will stay until the 16th of July. We may have to have an interim. We’ll have to wait to see how fast the consulting firm works.”

The Daily’s Mike Cherney contributed to this report.