City manager goes digital to reach out to Evanston

Katie Park

For Wally Bobkiewicz, communication is the name of the game.

Bobkiewicz, who began his post as Evanston’s new city manager in August, is responsible for starting and maintaining the new City of Evanston blog as well as Evanston’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel.

“I want to make sure that any resident of Evanston, be they 16-years-old or 86-years-old, can get the information that they need,” he said. “So we as a city government need to be flexible in providing that information in all the varieties of ways people look for to get that information.”

Bobkiewicz was born in Chicago and grew up in Deerfield and Glenview, Ill. He served as assistant city manager of Novato, Calif., and city manager of Santa Paula, Calif., before coming to Evanston.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said Bobkiewicz was “everyone’s first choice” out of the applicants for city manager.

“He works well with other people, and he’s fun to work with,” she said. “He sends every employee a birthday card, and with 800 employees, that’s a considerable effort.”

Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) said Bobkiewicz so far has been “excellent.”

“He’s changed things more quickly than anyone anticipated, in terms of morale and confidence,” Tendam said. “The city has gained a lot of respect for him very quickly.”

Tisdahl said she is working with Bobkiewicz to improve town and gown relations with Northwestern. Bobkiewicz, who used to serve on Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees, said having a major university in the town was one of the reasons he wanted to come to Evanston.

“All that has transpired over the past couple of months between Mayor Tisdahl and President Schapiro has been outstanding,” he said. “Now it’s up to me and the council and the mayor and our staff to … continue looking for opportunities for us to work closely together.”

Bobkiewicz said he also wants to improve communication between Evanston residents and government in “360-degree communication,” which includes posting city announcements and city council meeting summaries on the blog.

“We’re in the democracy business,” Bobkiewicz said. “Democracy requires people being engaged, and I think people can only be properly engaged if they’re being well-informed on what’s going on.”

Evanston’s blog is not Bobkiewicz’s first attempt at blogging. He maintained a blog in Santa Paula for more than four years. Tisdahl said one of the factors in the decision to appoint Bobkiewicz was his blog in Santa Paula.

“One reason we hired Wally was to have someone young with ideas like that,” Tisdahl said. “He’s very talented with participatory government.”

Tendam said Bobkiewicz has met the challenges of working with Evanston’s complex community.

“Things can only get better,” Tendam said.

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