Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announces she will not run for re-election


File photo by Nathan Richards

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced on Twitter Wednesday that she will not be running for reelection. Tisdahl was first elected in 2009.

Mariana Alfaro, Web Editor

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced on Twitter Wednesday evening that she will not be running for re-election in the spring.

In a message thanking the community and former Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton, Tisdahl said on her personal account, “Loved every minute of being Mayor. … Time for new challenges.”

In an interview with The Daily on Thursday, Tisdahl said although she still loves her job, it is time for her to leave office.

“I will miss it,” she said. “I still look forward to going to work every day, and I don’t want to get to the point where I don’t look forward to (it).”

Before serving as mayor for more than seven years, Tisdahl spent more than a decade on the Evanston Township High School/District 202 Board of Education, including two years at the board’s helm. Tisdahl later served six years as Evanston’s 7th Ward alderman.

Tisdahl won her first election in April 2009 with more than 62 percent of the vote, running unopposed four years later to clinch a second term.

Throughout Tisdahl’s tenure, she has aimed to lower the city’s unemployment rate, address problems with pensions and bolster affordable housing options. She said the best thing about Evanston is its diversity and that she hopes to continue working to make the city more affordable.

Market forces gobble up affordability in this town,” she said. “We’ve stopped losing African Americans but we haven’t gained them, so I’ve worked on that and I’m still working on that.”

Tisdahl has also been recognized by President Barack Obama on her work to shrink Evanston’s carbon footprint. This year, she was one of several American mayors invited to participate in the U.S.-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing in recognition of her environmental work. She told The Daily she hopes to continue these efforts in the remaining months of her tenure.

We’re trying to get people to have their homes rehabbed and increase insulation where they need to so that they use less energy,” she said.

More recently, Tisdahl’s main challenges have been coping with what stretched into a year-long absence of a state budget and working to reduce violence in the city — something she called the biggest challenge during her time as mayor.

Tisdahl also serves as president of the Northwest Municipal Conference, which represents 43 municipalities and one township. The role has kept her active in Springfield, where she typically travels with Evanston residents and Northwestern students one day each spring to lobby state legislators. This year, however, Tisdahl skipped the six-year tradition over frustration with state budget gridlock.

Tisdahl has been outspoken in resisting potential cuts to local governments that were floated during the budget stalemate, at times meeting directly with the Gov. Bruce Rauner to address her concerns.

Democracy, Tisdahl said in a March address, sometimes requires an activist response from an “enraged citizenry,” of which she said Evanston comes equipped.

One of Tisdahl’s trademark initiatives has been the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which offered more than 550 summer or year-round jobs to Evanston students in 2015.

“Best practices tell us that providing a thousand summer jobs will reduce violence,” Tisdahl said in March.

Former Ald. Jane Grover (7th), who left her post last winter, said Evanston grew stronger under her leadership, both as an alderman and mayor.

“I think we could agree that Evanston has seen some really solid growth economically and otherwise since she’s been here,” Grover told The Daily after Tisdahl’s announcement on Wednesday.

At the head of a city that encompasses NU, Tisdahl at times came under fire for decisions that angered students, such as revoking the liquor license of The Keg of Evanston, a popular bar that had a reputation for allowing entrance to underage drinkers. The mayor became the subject of multiple fake Twitter accounts — some characterizing her as a prohibitionist, harkening back to the city’s founding reputation as home to the temperance movement.

“I’ve become something of an urban legend,” Tisdahl told The Daily last year. “I don’t know that that will ever change.”

After the fake Twitter accounts began receiving tweets from officials in other cities, in March 2015 Tisdahl created her own account, which she ended up using as a platform to announce the end of her tenure.

Tisdahl became mayor at the same time University President Morton Schapiro began his term in NU, telling students during her first visit to NU as the mayor-elect that she aimed to enhance the relationship between the University and the city.

But in 2012, amid tensions over The Keg and an annual rash of complaints from residents on Dillo Day, The Princeton Review ranked the NU-Evanston relationship the 4th “most strained in the country.”

In 2015, the pair dropped off the list. And in March of that year, Tisdahl announced that NU planned to donate $1 million to Evanston annually for the next five years. It became the mayor’s choice where exactly the funds would be allocated, and this past fall, she announced that the first million would go in part toward a few of her passion projects as mayor: improving Sheridan Road, combating violence in the city and providing job training for at-risk youth.

We solved problems now instead of just complaining about them,” Tisdahl said of her work with Schapiro.

Ald. Mark Tendam (6th), who began his term in 2009 as well, said he is proud of the progress made on the relationship between the city and University under Tisdahl’s leadership.

“She had a very powerful and successful two terms and I’m sure she will work hard ’til the end and she will transition as well,” Tendam said.

Once her term is over, Tisdahl said she will continue advocating for gun control measures. But before returning to the world of Evanston politics, Tisdahl said she plans to take a break and do some traveling.

It’s time for new adventures,” she said.

This story was updated on Wednesday at 9:20 p.m and Thursday at 7 p.m. with comments from Tisdahl.

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