City may end nationwide city manager search, considers Erika Storlie as a candidate


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

City manager Erika Storlie. City Council voted Monday to commit to increasing the reserve fund to 16.66 percent of expenses.

Sneha Dey, City Editor

City officials proposed ending the nationwide search for a city manager and promoting Erika Storlie, who has served as interim city manager amid the pandemic.

“I hear from members of the community how glad they are that they live in Evanston right now…That’s Erika,” said Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd). “Particularly over the last 100 days, Erika has proven to me she is more than ready to take this on.”

Storlie was selected for the interim position in August 2019 when former city manager Wally Bobkiewicz resigned. Aldermen also hired GovHR USA in the fall to begin a nationwide selection process, which has since been delayed due to the pandemic.

Storlie has been with the city for 16 years, serving various roles, including web developer, citizen engagement manager, deputy city manager and assistant city manager.

“She knows Evanston. She shares Evanston,” said Ald. Donald Wilson (4th). “I live here too and I’m a constituent. I want the person doing this job to understand what our community is about.”

For months, the search was delayed after Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) and Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) objected to hiring the recruitment firm that was ultimately selected. When the coronavirus hit, GovHR was scheduled to start community stakeholder meetings and distribute surveys, all of which has been put on hold.

Fleming and Suffredin said aldermen need to consult with their constituents, who were told they would be involved in the search process from the start.

“Erika has done a fine job. I am not ready to just say, let’s give it to Erika because she’s here and we’ve survived the pandemic,” said Fleming. “We are a government and there is a process…Not having had a public discussion at all with the residents is inappropriate.”

At this time, GovHR has not expressed concern about completing the search. In fact, GovHR continues to post openings on job sites.

But Mayor Steve Hagerty said the pool of candidates has likely narrowed due to the pandemic, and he would not be comfortable with a candidate who was willing to leave their jurisdiction in this time of crisis.

He also said vetting of candidates virtually, a reality of hiring amid a pandemic, would be “not ideal.”

No city code prohibits the aldermen from altering the search process and looking for a manager internally. Council members will consider the appointment of Storlie as a candidate for the position at the next city council meeting on June 8.

Hagerty also emphasized the need for a permanent leader at a time of crisis.

“Very difficult decisions must be made and everyone ought to know that a permanent leader is at the helm making those decisions,” said Hagerty. “Erika Storlie has proven herself over the last 16 years in Evanston to be an effective manager… She’s a straight shooter.”

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