Colleagues recall Ald. Jane Grover’s dedication to Evanston as her resignation nears


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) attends a City Council meeting. Grover announced Friday that she would be stepping down from City Council at the end of the year to pursue a job in regional planning.

Marissa Page, Assistant City Editor

During her six years on City Council, Ald. Jane Grover (7th) claimed unofficial office space at Linz & Vail coffee shop on Central Street. In the early morning hours, Grover frequently meets with officials to discuss Evanston outside the council chambers.

At the coffee shop, Grover often parsed through complex issues affecting the city, met with city manager Wally Bobkiewicz and fielded community concerns with John Walsh, president of the Central Street Neighbors Association. When Ald. Brian Miller (9th) was appointed to City Council in the spring following the departure of Ald. Coleen Burrus, Grover was quick to set up a meeting to get to know him. Now, the mayor will again be tasked with filling a council seat after Grover announced Friday she would be stepping down at the end of the year.

“She reached out to me to have a lot of one-on-one convos,” Miller said. “She’s a really nice person — which sounds very simple — but she just is.”

Grover, first elected to serve the 7th Ward in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, announced that she would be expanding the reach of her work with a position at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. She will begin serving as CMAP’s outreach principal on Dec. 15.

As outreach principal, Grover will lead engagement between CMAP and regional elected officials, civic groups and business groups to coordinate planning initiatives. She said she believes her experience working on initiatives regarding transportation, sustainability and economic development in Evanston will have prepared her well for this new role.

“What I’m excited about is to expand the work I feel like I’ve been doing in Evanston to a regional platform,” Grover said. “It will be really interesting for me to deploy what I’ve learned serving Evanston on this regional scale.”

Miller said Grover’s new position at CMAP seemed like a perfect fit.

“This is a great opportunity for her,” he said. “She was the biggest booster of Evanston and now she’ll be the biggest booster of a variety of initiatives around the Chicago area.”

Bobkiewicz said Grover’s impact on the city and council will prevail long after she resigns. He noted her role in spearheading Evanston’s ban of hands-free cell phone technology while driving, which was enacted in the city even before it became state law.

“She’s always been very proud of that and prioritizing pedestrian safety,” Bobkiewicz said. “The confluence of bikes and cars and people has always been something she’s concerned about.”

Walsh, who lives in the 6th Ward, said Grover frequently worked with him and CSNA on addressing issues in their district.

“She is the 7th Ward alderman, and that has been her primary focus, but she’s also someone who is very involved — from my perspective — in keeping all of Evanston in the best light,” he said.

Grover is the second alderman to have stepped down in 2015 after Burrus vacated her seat in April to join Princeton University as director of corporate and foundation relations. After a public forum in April for the 9th Ward aldermanic candidates, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl appointed Miller to take her spot. The same procedure will apply in appointing Grover’s replacement, Bobkiewicz said.

“The mayor said she’ll probably make an announcement (this) week regarding the next steps for appointment,” he said. “Since there already has been another appointment this year, the process will look a lot like the process that brought Mr. Miller into council.”

Although Grover said she and Tisdahl have had many discussions over the past several weeks about both her future and that of the 7th Ward, she will play no formal role in appointing her successor.

“It’s the mayor’s appointment — that’s her job,” Grover said. “I trust she will find somebody who is high caliber, community-oriented, mindful of city-wide things and not just ward-specific issues.”

Miller said that although arguments in Council can cause tension in the chambers, he felt that Grover always tried to make peace. She has brought a sense of stability to the council, he said.

“A lot of times things can become heated and it’s nice to have a levelheaded person that you know recognizes that we can agree to disagree,” Miller said.

Bobkiewicz said he will miss hearing Grover’s thoughts on different initiatives over Linz & Vail coffee.

“She’s been very much a conscience for the council,” Bobkiewicz said. “She always raises those questions about how will the Council’s actions impact the community and quality of life of Evanston residents.”

Although Grover will formally leave the council, she hopes to remain actively involved in the city’s developments. She and her family will continue to live in the 7th Ward.

“Evanston city officials are indeed the best and brightest,” Grover said. “I won’t miss all the evening meetings but I’ll miss being on the inside. For the last almost seven years, everything that’s happened in this city has felt very important to me.”

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