Aldermen to select city manager recruitment firms at Rules Committee meeting


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Erika Storlie at Monday’s meeting. Storlie will act as the interim city manager until a permanent replacement is hired.

Cassidy Wang, Assistant City Editor

City members on Monday held off on approving a contract with the executive recruitment firm GovHR USA to conduct the search for the next city manager.

Aldermen will instead choose three firms to review at the Oct. 7 Rules Committee meeting. The selected firm will conduct a nationwide search for a city manager to replace Wally Bobkiewicz, who attended his last City Council meeting Monday. After serving ten years as Evanston’s city manager, Bobkiewicz will assume the role of city administrator in Issaquah, Washington on Sept. 30.

Aldermen voted to appoint assistant city manager Erika Storlie as the interim city manager at the Sept. 9 council meeting. Council did not specify how long the search will take.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said she was concerned with past searches GovHR USA conducted for the city, while Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the lack of diversity of the firm’s associates does not reflect a commitment to inclusion in their representation.

The city has used GovHR to hire three employees recently — two African Americans and one LGBTQ person — Bobkiewicz said. He said the search firm should understand what the city is looking for and involve officials in the hiring process.

“There are very few communities like Evanston,” Bobkiewicz said. “Those that you want to apply for this job will ultimately do that because they will see this as one of the great challenges in local government in America.”

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said the city has had success with GovHR in the past. She said the Midwest-based firm can better understand Evanston as opposed to others that are based on the West Coast.

“We aren’t a run-of-the-mill community and we really need a recruiting firm that very much understands us,” Wynne said. “A very critical element is that they come in and hear from us.”

Mayor Steve Hagerty said at the Sept. 9 meeting that the selection of a new city manager is “arguably the most important responsibility of the Evanston City Council,” and residents will have a part of the recruitment process.

“Once a search firm has been hired, we will begin a process of seeking community dialogue, obtaining input on what skills, experience, and traits residents would like to see in the next city manager,” Hagerty said.

Residents should also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the city manager’s job description and be able to serve on a community panel in a meeting with final candidates that the entire community will be able to attend, Hagerty said.

Hagerty said council members will ultimately hire a city manager whose “values, skills, experience and knowledge align with the elected representatives of this city.”

Ninth Ward resident Elliot Zashin said at the Sept. 9 meeting that “restoring the city to a sound financial position” and “calming the internal conflicts” between elected officials and city staff will be a challenge for the next city manager.

“Citizens need to have some sense of how the new manager will tackle these problems and how much information about the city’s condition she or he will share with the public,” Zashin said. “A great deal of public confidence has been lost. Allowing us to have a significant role in the selection of the next city manager will be a first step in restoring that confidence.”

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