Evanston calls for volunteer city ambassadors to provide residents more information


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz speaks at a council meeting Monday. At the meeting, Bobkiewicz announced the city is looking for residents to volunteer for the community ambassador program.

Jane Recker, Assistant Monthly Editor

Evanston is looking for “city ambassadors,” city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

These volunteer ambassadors will serve the dual functions of creating a positive image of the city and informing residents about city standards and programming that can oft go overlooked, said Kimberly Richardson, assistant to the city manager.

“The purpose of this program is to connect community members who are engaged in Evanston who want to gather as much as they can know about how Evanston is run and share that information with community members,” Richardson, who will spearhead the program, said.

Bobkiewicz said any Evanston resident or employee who is at least 18 years old can apply to be an ambassador as long as they can commit to a two-year term as well as the trainings and events that come with the position.

He added that the ambassadors are “committed and involved” community members who will attend certain events and activities to inform their neighbors about city services.

Evanston had a similar program in place in 2015, but it ended the same year when the person running it left the city, Richardson said. Last year, Evanston began a pilot version of the ambassador program that led to the present iteration, with ambassadors culled from the online application due May 7, she said.

Richardson said she aims to keep the program apolitical and to focus on strengthening the community. She said while increased transparency of city proceedings isn’t a direct goal of the program, she feels it’s something that will naturally come about through increased communication between residents.

While the original program focused on ambassadors serving as volunteers at city events, Richardson said the current program will stress sharing information with friends and neighbors to make residents more informed and foster a greater sense of community.

“This is not just about (the ambassadors) learning about the city of Evanston,” she said. “It’s about them having the information and knowledge to be able to share with their neighbors and colleagues, and to confidently be able to (share) … bits and pieces of each department.”

For instance, Evanston Woman Magazine editor in chief Linda Del Bosque, who is one of the ambassadors in the city’s pilot program, noted that many city residents believe the 311 number is only used for Evanston’s emergency alert system. However, she said, residents could call this number if they had any questions about the city, ranging from when dog park hours are to how to pay a parking ticket.

She stressed that the ideal ambassador is someone with passion for the city and community.

“(The ideal candidate) is someone who is passionate about Evanston as a whole and understands the importance of the word community … who’s passionate about bringing us together,” she said. “If you have that mentality, you’ll do more for your community members.”

Samantha Handler contributed reporting.

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