Rules Committee examines city manager recruitment process and schedule


Daily file photo by Emma Edmund

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) at a City Council meeting. Braithwaite enumerated the qualities of a city manager that members of the 2nd Ward believe to be essential.

Emma Edmund, Summer Editor

The Evanston Rules Committee examined the proposed city manager recruitment schedule Monday and emphasized the need for resident input.

The proposed schedule would include virtual sessions with community stakeholders and would culminate with interview sessions for potential candidates around mid-September. GovHR USA, the company in charge of the process, wrote it plans to use video services, online surveys and social media to solicit information from the community and convey information about the application process.

By the week of June 29, GovHR plans to have met with elected officials, staff and other stakeholders to understand expectations for the city manager position. During the same time, the recruitment firm suggests the city upload a survey to its website, which residents could use to submit comments regarding the search.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said she wanted to include residents in some of the more selective forms of input for the city manager search.

Currently, GovHR plans to meet via video with focus groups consisting of representatives from the business and faith communities, nonprofits, school districts and the University, among others. Fleming said she wanted to guarantee resident input in the process.

“Our residents have been very vocal about wanting to have as much participation in this as possible,” Fleming said. “While the residents can come to the general town hall-type meetings, I think to identify residents, whether we do one or two per ward, that really shows we’re listening to our constituents, that we see them as really important voices here.”

Fleming proposed a separate resident stakeholder meeting, with maybe one or two residents per ward, and perhaps even a couple of people chosen by the mayor. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st), however, said that process wouldn’t work for her ward, because she often has too many voices to narrow down to a couple of representatives.

Heidi Voorhees, the president and co-owner of GovHR, said the recruitment process can include multiple focus groups that can incorporate a wide variety of community voices, including residents’.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) has already held a 2nd Ward meeting, where he asked residents about the qualities they expected in a city manager. He said some of the top priorities from his residents were an equity lens, as well as someone who has knowledge with conflict resolution skills and fiscal responsibility with the budget.

“The priorities that came out of the meeting are… Someone who is familiar with leading a college town as well as proximity to a big city, and finally someone who’s going to be objective,” Braithwaite said.

On July 5, consultants would submit a draft recruitment brochure to the mayor and City Council for review and approval; the brochure would then be sent out to potential candidates and the GovHR database. Resumes would be due by August 14.

The week of Sept. 7, consultants plan to meet with City Council and the mayor to review candidates, with interviews conducted by Evanston officials starting mid-September. The first round would include 5-7 candidates, according to GovHR, while the second round would likely include just three.

A public forum for finalist candidates will also occur during this point in the process. The entire process, Voorhees said, will be conducted without the input of potential internal candidates, to ensure fairness for all candidates.

Regardless, Voorhees said that while virtual city manager searches have proceeded in other states, none have been comparable to Evanston’s search.

“This is going to be unique to Evanston,” Voorhees said.

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