Residents voice opinions on city manager finalists at City Council meeting


Madison Smith/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston residents discussed the two city manager finalists at a City Council meeting Monday. The majority of residents who spoke said they supported Snapper Poche, the program director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

Saul Pink, Reporter

On the heels of a recent town hall between Evanston’s final two city manager candidates, residents took to Monday’s City Council meeting to voice their opinions about the upcoming selection of the new city manager. 

The two finalists for the position – John Fournier and Snapper Poche – spoke about their qualifications for the job and ideas for Evanston in the virtual town hall May 3. Mayor Daniel Biss said during the town hall that the council would begin discussing the finalists Monday. Shortly following the meeting, the council went into a closed executive session to discuss personnel matters.

Lesley Williams, who spoke on behalf of the Community Alliance for Better Government at Monday’s meeting, said the alliance supports Poche based on his honesty about the challenges of city leadership work and his commitments to transparency, racial equity and funding social services.

“Mr. Poche speaks of values and even morals,” Williams said. “Budgets are not just numbers. He talks about shifting the discussion from dollars to values and investment in those values.”

Later in the evening, councilmembers unanimously voted to authorize Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski to increase the city’s 2021 fiscal year budget by more than $11 million. 

Evanston resident Mike Vasilko said the council should wait to approve the increase and any other major changes to the budget until the new city manager assumes office. 

“I know so many things that some people feel are urgent, but you have a new city manager coming in,” Vasilko said. “He should have the opportunity to be a part of the process.”

Poche currently serves as the program director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which conducts research into effective city governments and trains incoming municipal officials. He previously worked as program director at the Innovation Field Lab New York, an urban development initiative, and has served as the director of code enforcement for the City of New Orleans.

Fournier is currently the assistant city administrator for Ann Arbor, Michigan. He previously worked under former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto as deputy chief of staff. In Pittsburgh, he authored the city’s Act 47 financial plan, which led the city out of state oversight of its finances.He was also the director of on-street and metered parking.

Former aldermanic candidate Mary Rosinski vouched for Poche at the meeting based on her understanding of Fournier’s recent work in Ann Arbor. 

“Ann Arbor unfortunately seems to be having so many of the same challenges that Evanston has,” she said. “We need more. We need to move forward.”

Fournier spoke during the town hall about his plan for climate action, which includes solarizing city facilities and affordable housing and prioritizing pedestrian infrastructure.

On April 25, City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency in Evanston, upgrading its Climate Action and Resilience Plan to one of the council’s primary goals. That same day, Evanston Township High School students walked out of school to demand administrators hire a sustainability coordinator in an effort organized by ETown Sunrise, a student-led climate activism group. 

Williams noted Poche also has been involved in efforts to mitigate climate change.

“The child of the Louisiana fishermen, (Poche’s) family lost their commercial fishing livelihood because of the decline of the area’s natural resources,” Williams said. “Climate change and climate justice are not just abstractions for him.”

According to a city report, City Council unanimously selected Poche and Fournier as the two City Manager finalists after narrowing down the initial 75 candidates presented by recruitment firm Stanton Chase.  

According to a city news release, the council’s selection of a final candidate will follow a panel interview by city staffers and community members, in addition to the feedback presented by residents Monday night.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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