The Daily Explains: What is a city manager?

Katrina Pham

Yiming Fu, City Editor

As Evanston gears up to welcome a new city manager this month, here’s what you need to know about the job. 

The city manager is responsible for developing Evanston’s annual budget, overseeing government operations and delivering government services. City Council, on the other hand, is responsible for approving policies and communicating with residents. 

Mayor Daniel Biss said the city manager is essentially “the CEO of Evanston” in an October newsletter in which he announced City Council’s search to fill the position. 

Former City Manager Erika Storlie left on Oct. 8, 2021 after 56 female lakefront staff raised sexual misconduct assault allegations against their coworkers and supervisors last summer. 

Evanston’s new city manager will be responsible for filling many vacant positions in the city’s government, including a new police chief, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said.

Evanston has run on a council-manager form of government since 1952, and has appointed 13 city managers since then. In a council-manager form of government, residents elect city officials including nine councilmembers and the mayor. The elected officials then select the city manager. 

Some residents and councilmembers think Evanston should rethink the council-manager system completely. 

During last year’s municipal elections, aldermanic candidates discussed the effectiveness of the council-manager form of government at candidate forum hosted on Mar. 2, 2021 by the NAACP Evanston/North Shore Branch. Some advocated for a “strong-mayor,” or mayor-council form of government, which gives more power to the mayor and removes the city manager position altogether. 

At the forum, former 2nd Ward aldermanic candidate Darlene Cannon said a mayor-dominant system would increase transparency and accountability.

“Our current form of government, with our city manager, is not leading with care and concern about the long-term impact it is going to have on marginalized residents,” Cannon said at the forum. “We need to reevaluate what we are doing right now.”

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), also said she would support a council-mayor form of government at last year’s forum.

Kelly also challenged Storlie’s $225,000 salary.

“We need to figure out why we are paying our city manager more money than the governor of Illinois, the governor of California and the mayor of Chicago,” Kelly said at last year’s forum. 

The council-manager form of government is the most widespread form of city government, according to the National League of Cities. Phoenix and San Antonio are two major cities that run on the council-manager form of government, while New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all run on a mayor-council form of government. 

On Jan. 5, City Council announced Michael Jasso and Daniel Ramos as the two finalists in the search for Evanston’s next city manager.

Jasso is an assistant city manager of Sacramento, Calif. and Ramos is the deputy chief of staff and deputy city administrator for Baltimore.

City Council will select Evanston’s next city manager by the end of the month. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @yimingfuu

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @KatrinaPham_

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