Erika Storlie confirmed as Evanston’s next city manager

Erika+Storlie.+Storlie+was+confirmed+as+Evanston%E2%80%99s+next+city+manager+on+Monday.+

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Erika Storlie. Storlie was confirmed as Evanston’s next city manager on Monday.

Jacob Fulton, City Editor

Evanston City Council confirmed Erika Storlie as the city’s next city manager on Monday night.

The vote passed 7-3, with Alds. Robin Rue Simmons (5th), Thomas Suffredin (6th) and Cicely Fleming (9th) voting against the contract.

Storlie, who has worked for the city since 2004 and served as interim city manager since September 2019, was announced as the city’s finalist on Tuesday, following a selection process facilitated by GovHR USA. The city received 76 applications for the position, and narrowed it down to three finalists, who addressed the public for the first time in an October public forum.

In a news release, Mayor Steve Hagerty cited Storlie’s dedication to the city and as her experience directing Evanston through the pandemic as pivotal factors in the decision-making process.

However, some residents said Storlie’s selection was a safe choice for the city, and didn’t prioritize issues like racial equity and budget creativity — both topics mentioned in public discussions hosted by the city to determine necessary qualities for the person filling the role. 

Some residents said the other two candidates — Aretha Ferrell-Benavides and Marie Peoples — both demonstrated more preparation for the job in the public discussion, whereas Storlie did not.

Around two dozen residents showed up for public comment to share their stances on the appointment, with some speaking each in favor of and against Storlie. Some residents have said the lack of public input in the decision-making process, especially in the executive session where the finalist was chosen, was harmful to the city, but Hagerty said negotiations needed to remain private in case something fell through.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) voted for Storlie, citing her experience in Evanston amid the pandemic. Storlie was able to cut $10 million from the city’s general fund, she said, reducing the fund’s deficit to $2 million.

“With Erika, we know we have a very strong staff leader — she’s proven her ability to build and lead a very capable staff team,” Revelle said. “She established a level of trust with her staff, and enabled them to work through the really significant challenges of the pandemic, to continue to provide a high level of service to our residents, and I think having that stability going forward is really, really valuable.”

The city, Revelle said, also needs to be in a strong financial position in order to make progress on racial equity goals. As a result, she said she felt Storlie was the best candidate for the job.

Rue Simmons also acknowledged the importance of Storlie’s leadership during the pandemic. Though she voted against the contract, saying she had another candidate as her first choice, she said she plans to work with Storlie for the betterment of the city.

“I had one key candidate out of the three amazing and very qualified candidates that would have been my choice for city manager, and it was not Erika,” Rue Simmons said. “But with that, we have a process that includes a general consensus, and… that is moving forward with Erika as a professional with a responsibility to set us up for success.”

At the meeting, Hagerty said City Council plans to move forward and collaborate with Storlie to ensure the city’s success in the coming months.

Hagerty also said he wasn’t concerned about the resident backlash he has received, because he believes the backlash was based on a difference of opinions.

“Erika, for me, and on behalf of all of us whether we voted for you or didn’t vote for you, you have the full support of this Evanston City Council to try and make you and our city as successful as possible,” Hagerty said to Storlie after her contract was confirmed.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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