A timeline of Evanston’s city manager search


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

After two failed search processes across many months, Evanston is still looking for a permanent city manager.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

Evanston has tried to appoint a city manager for about two years, following the departure of Wally Bobkiewicz in 2019. But with two failed attempts to secure a permanent appointment, the search has not been easy, as residents criticize a lack of transparency surrounding the selection process. 

Under Evanston’s council-manager system of government, residents elect city officials who then appoint the city manager. Described by Mayor Daniel Biss as the “CEO of the City of Evanston,” the city manager helps deliver governmental services, and their responsibilities include managing city operations, keeping the city on track to meet larger goals and preparing the annual budget.

The Daily compiled a timeline of the city manager search, breaking down some of the key developments.

September 2019 — Wally Bobkiewicz leaves

Bobkiewicz, who filled the position for a decade, left Evanston to serve as the city administrator of Issaquah, Washington. According to his resignation note, Bobkiewicz highlighted strengthening town-gown relationships and promoting commercial interests as accomplishments during his tenure. Former Assistant City Manager Erika Storlie replaced Bobkiewicz as the interim city manager.

May 2020 — City Council considers promoting Erika Storlie

City Council approved hiring agency GovHR USA to conduct Evanston’s city manager search in January, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in the nationwide selection. In a May City Council meeting, city officials proposed that Storlie officially fill the position.

October 2020 — Erika Storlie confirmed as city manager

From a pool of 76 applicants, GovHR USA narrowed the search to three candidates: Aretha Ferrell-Benavides, the former city manager of Petersburg, Virginia; Marie Peoples, the former deputy county manager of Coconino County, Arizona, and Storlie. Storlie was confirmed as Evanston’s city manager in a 7-3 vote on Oct. 19, 2020.

However, several community members questioned Storlie’s qualifications, as well as her commitment to racial equity initiatives. Residents said the two other finalists, who are both Black women, were better prepared to address structural racism and inclusion.

August 2021 — Erika Storlie’s exit 

In August 2021, City Council approved of Storlie’s resignation deal after allegations of a culture of sexual misconduct among lakefront employees. More than 50 female staff raised sexual misconduct and assault allegations against their superiors and coworkers in July 2020. Storlie and other city officials came under public scrutiny for the city’s response to the allegations. 

October 2021 — Kelley Gandurski steps in 

Storlieleft office Oct. 8. Following Storlie’s resignation, former Deputy City Manager Kelley Gandurski stepped in as interim city manager. The city reopened recruitment for a new city manager.

January 2022 — The first search

In a search conducted by government consulting group CPS HR, Evanston announced two finalists: Michael Jasso, an assistant city manager of Sacramento, California, and Daniel Ramos, the former deputy chief administrative officer of Baltimore.

Jasso and Ramos answered questions from the audience at a virtual town hall on Jan. 10. The two candidates voiced their support for economic, environmental and racial justice.

Ramos rescinded his application in late January, accepting a position with another community. City Council decided to restart the search process with a different recruitment agency.

April 2022 — The second search

Evanston consulted recruitment firm Stanton Chase to perform the second search, narrowing the field to two finalists by the end of April. The candidates were John Fournier, the assistant city administrator of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Snapper Poche, the program director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

May 2022 — Public outcry against John Fournier’s appointment

During a virtual town hall on May 3, Poche and Fournier discussed their ideas for Evanston and answered questions submitted by residents. They spoke about issues ranging from racial equity to climate change.

City Council announced its intent to approve Fournier’s appointment on May 13. A week later, Evanston residents protested the selection process in front of Palmhouse. Activists said they preferred Poche due to his commitment to climate action.

The protesters criticized the city’s lack of resident input throughout the selection process. They also raised concerns about the alleged pattern of racial bias in hiring practices under Fournier’s tenure in Ann Arbor. The city of Ann Arbor previously investigated claims of discrimination and budget manipulation against Fournier in 2021 but did not find violations of the law.

Though City Council approved the appointment on May 23, Fournier turned down the position after multiple contract negotiations, citing a lack of payment assistance with housing and relocation costs. Gandurski continued to serve as interim city manager. 

July 2022 — Kelly Gandurski leaves 

Gandurski left the city for a land use and government law firm on July 11. Luke Stowe, Evanston’s former chief information officer and interim deputy city manager was confirmed as the next interim city manager on July 11.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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