Daily file photo by Christopher Vazquez
City Council will review the list of applicants to fill the city manager position and select candidates to move on to the first round of interviews in a Thursday executive session closed to the public.
On Friday, GovHR provided City Council with a comprehensive report of the applicants for the position. The first round of interviews for the candidates will take place during the week of Sept. 28.
The city approved a contract with executive search firm GovHR USA in January to facilitate the search for Evanston’s next city manager, and received around 70 applications for the position. The last person to hold the position was Wally Bobkiewicz, who served as city manager for 10 years before vacating the position in August 2019 to take a job as city administrator in Issaquah, Wash.
Since his departure, Erika Storlie has served as interim city manager for over a year, after the selection process for Bobkiewicz’s successor was complicated by COVID-19. In May, City Council proposed eliminating the selection process and appointing Storlie to the position permanently, but after resident backlash, the resolution was withdrawn in June, and the selection process continued.
“I’ve been here for 16 years. I know the public process has been at the core of what Evanston and who Evanston is,” Storlie said after the notion of her direct appointment received criticism.
On the same day City Council received the list of candidates, nine grassroots organizing campaigns released a call for the city to demonstrate its commitment to racial equity with its hiring decision for the position.
Some of the groups represented included Evanston Fight for Black Lives, Community Alliance for Better Government, Organization for Positive Action and Leadership and the Evanston Minority Business Consortium.
“Our past experiences with city leadership were of racial insensitivity, closed mindedness and an unwillingness or inability to prioritize racial equity and transparency,” the statement read. “We insist that any candidates forwarded demonstrate a commitment to those values.”
Evanston resident and activist Bennett Johnson also said the selection process should keep candidates’ focus on racial justice at the forefront.
Amid city promises to prioritize the needs of Black residents and the implementation of a first-of-its-kind reparations fund, Johnson said Evanston needs a city manager who will understand the issues Black residents face. During Bobkiewicz’s time as city manager, the city dealt with multiple discrimination settlements.
“We want to see someone who will prioritize anti-racism and equity,” Johnson said. “The ability of the person to manage is another factor, but that has to be assumed. We’d prefer having someone who can do both, but even if they can’t manage well, as long as they have the right attitude, the individual can learn.”
During the executive session, City Council will also determine the level of community input throughout the next stages of the selection process. The city is scheduled to name its next city manager in a special City Council meeting on Oct. 19.
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