A beginner’s guide to Evanston politics and power players


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Jacob Fulton, Summer Editor

Over a century ago, Northwestern was established by the state of Illinois, creating the city of Evanston as a result. While you may not know it now, the city and NU are far more interconnected than meets the eye. Therefore, getting to know the government in the city you’ll call home for the next four years is absolutely essential.

Evanston is divided into nine wards, with the University falling primarily in the 7th Ward. Most students who live off campus, however, reside in the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th wards — and each ward has a different representative. 

City Council is the city’s primary elected body, with one representative for each ward and Mayor Daniel Biss overseeing it all. This past April, Evanston’s 81st City Council was elected for a four-year term, which means you’ve got plenty of time to get to know your representatives. 

Who’s your alderperson? 

Once you figure out which ward you live in, you can find out who your alderperson is. They are as follows: Clare Kelly (1st), Peter Braithwaite (2nd), Melissa Wynne (3rd), Jonathan Niewusma (4th), Bobby Burns (5th), Tom Suffredin (6th), Eleanor Revelle (7th), Devon Reid (8th) and Cicely Fleming (9th). 

Since this City Council is brand new, with four newcomers taking the dais, the next year or so will be important to watch as they sort out their priorities. They’ve already tackled some pretty big topics, such as the city’s longstanding beach tokens, which some community members say are classist, and a proposed tax increment financing district in the 5th Ward. Keep an eye on them the next few months, as significant change could be in the works.

What’s the lay of the land?

City Council meets in the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, located off of Ridge Avenue, but that’s not the only important city building you might encounter in your time in Evanston. 

A little closer to home, you’ll find Evanston Public Library’s main branch located just steps from NU. I’ll always advocate for a good library visit — and EPL provides more for the community than just books. Just like NU’s libraries, the city can offer all sorts of resources, including potentially some  required readings for class. They also have a pretty large collection of fiction, in case you want some lighter literature to break up all your schoolwork. EPL also provides resources with voter registration, census completion and internet access, which became even more important to the community during the pandemic. 

If you’re located in the 4th Ward, the Robert Crown Community Center might be close to you. It’s a community space hosting recreational programs and serves as a branch of EPL. Inside, you’ll find a skating rink, home to NU’s synchronized skating team and a great place to spend time with friends.

Evanston is also home to two school districts: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School. The former serves students through eighth grade in a wide range of schools across the city, and the latter is Evanston’s public high school. Throughout your time here, you may see students from both districts. NU’s relationship with ETHS has grown over time, resulting in a wide array of partnerships. 

While this is far from comprehensive, it’s enough of a rundown to make sure you’re aware of some of the city’s major players and locations. 

If you want to learn more about the city, The Daily is a great place to start. We’ve covered Evanston the longest out of any existing publication, serving as the city’s paper of record. By knowing more about the city you live in, you’ll be able to give back to the community and enrich your experience here significantly. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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