Candidate plans to bring business savvy to job

Breanne Gilpatrick

He may be running in one of the most contested races in the city, but there is one fact Sixth Ward candidate Marty Norkett wants to make perfectly clear — he is not a politician.

Norkett is in the middle of a four-way race with incumbent Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) and challengers Virginia Mann and Mark Tendam. Only the Fifth Ward race has more candidates.

He’s not a "nuts and bolts politician," but if elected, he said he will bring more than 37 years of corporate business experience to the Evanston City Council.

"I’m a businessman," Norkett said. "I think that’s the key thing. You’ve got to bring business back in."

His experience in Evanston real estate development has left him with a keen understanding of finance and no tolerance for wasted time in city council deliberations. "If you can’t get your business done in four hours, there’s something wrong," Norkett said. "Either you haven’t done your homework or you don’t care."

Even in his campaign, Norkett isn’t about to waste time.

While he sits by the window in his ward’s recently-built Starbucks at 3330 Central St., he answers questions about his city issues by pointing to the appropriate paragraph in his three-page campaign memo, parts of which are posted on his campaign Web site.

"In business we don’t waste time," Norkett said. "You put a business plan together."

Norkett’s memo includes information on his call for fiscal responsibility in city finances, his support for the inoculation of Evanston’s "signature elms" and a statement that Evanston must re-establish a working relationship with Northwestern by engaging the university as a partner rather than as an adversary. He said he also supports "good sensible development" and wants to foster development on Central Street — the ward’s major shopping area — that will preserve the character of the street.

Norkett sees life with a business eye. As he watches cars pull into and out of the Starbuck’s parking lot, Norkett criticizes the lot’s design.

"Look at that," Norkett said, gesturing to several children on bicycles who cut in front of a car pulling in. "At least (the driver) has got her (sun) visor down. Smart woman."

The April 5 aldermanic election won’t be Norkett’s first run at the council. He also ran for Sixth Ward alderman in 2001.

Norkett also has a history of community involvement as director of the Evanston Township High School Boosters Club’s Board of Directors and of the Evanston Baseball & Softball Association. He serves on the Evanston Economic Development Committee and is a past chairman of the city’s Plan Commission.

One of his opponents in the 2001 election, Omar Khuri, is now Norkett’s campaign manager. If elected, Norkett would bring a much needed business perspective to the city, Khuri said.

"He can look at a spreadsheet and understand that if you have $1 to spend, you can’t spend $1.20," Khuri said. "And he knows how to get the best available information and make a decision based on that information."

But there is more to Norkett than numbers and business plans. Norkett said he also plans to get out in the community to talk to people. Norkett spends three hours every afternoon "walking the ward" and talking to constituents.

One of Norkett’s six children, Michael Norkett, 16, said he has seen his father’s dedication to the campaign.

"Every time I get home from school, he’s always walking the ward," he said at a campaign event Monday at Bluestone, 1932 Central St.

Communication is a major issue for the campaign, Norkett said.

"We really need to communicate with the residents on a greater basis," he said.

He said Evanston suffers from a lack of communication and much of the communication that does occur is "miscommunication."

Sixth Ward resident Lois Sears met Norkett for the first time Monday and said she probably will vote for him.

"He’s very personable," Sears said. "And I think anyone who takes on a job like this has to have a lot of civic pride and a sense of integrity."

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected].