Steve Hagerty

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam says that he is running to be Evanston’s mayor as part of a longstanding commitment to community involvement and a desire to serve the public even more.

It has not been an easy race for any of the candidates in the 2017 contest. Evanston held a mayoral primary for the first time in years, with emergency management consultant Steve Hagerty and Ald. Tendam the winners. Ald. Tendam has been endorsed by two of his primary opponents, Jeff Smith and Gary Gaspard, as well as 9th District U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Ald. Tendam, a graphics designer by trade, pointed to his work with the HIV/AIDS organization Better Existence with HIV (BEHIV) – founded in Evanston in 1989  – as inspiring him to become more interested in community service and politics.

He recalled, “That was a Citywide effort and I enjoyed getting out of the corner of the City I live in, and being with people from across the City.”

BEHIV’s primary constituency in Evanston offered Ald. Tendam a different lens on that work, which he had already been involved with in Chicago.

He recalled, “I’d come from the city and been involved with some service organizations in many capacities, but primarily I was working with the gay population. But when I was up here, it was across racial and cultural lines – all the lines, gender even – so I was dealing with a much broader cross-section of the community affected by the epidemic.”

Ald. Tendam also sat on the board of the McGaw YMCA. “I was expanding my understanding of Evanston, trying to broaden that across the City,” he said.

As an alderman, his time has been divided between work for the Sixth Ward and the larger City. “Eight years as alderman is a good run. I’d like to see what someone else can do in the Sixth Ward, and I’d like to try my hand at leading us further in terms of development, affordable housing, expanding medical facilities – including [expanding access to] mental health and substance abuse services –  things like that.”

He described the mayor’s post as being that of “a cheerleader or ambassador” for Evanston, but added, “When it comes down to the actual work of the mayor, it’s building consensus. It’s bringing ideas forward. The mayor always has an agenda about bringing those ideas – by listening to the constituents and the aldermen, taking their ideas, building consensus, making sure that the conversation is appropriate and that we don’t get out in front with our legislation before voices are heard. We’ve seen that happen quite a bit over the years, where we’ve had some embarrassing moments because of that on the Council.” 

The RoundTable asked both Ald. Tendam and Mr. Hagerty what question they would most like to ask their opponent. Mr. Hagerty asked Ald. Tendam to clarify his motives for running and also asked him to name some City Council initiatives he felt especially involved in.

Ald. Tendam reiterated his above remarks about his run being an extension of his previous community service, then added, to address the second part of Mr. Hagerty’s question, “Less than a year into the Council, we started working on the next budget. …There was a recommendation to close the branch libraries, and some other services, having to do with the library. I was very active in the charge to keep the libraries open and expand services. We knew it would cost something, because the branch libraries in particular were not ADA-compliant. Again, it goes back to reaching out to the whole City. …I think we’ve seen our library grow into a much stronger institution in the last five or six years. There were a lot of residents involved in that. In order to avoid that battle every budget cycle, I pushed for the Library Fund model, which is what we adopted.”

He also recounted work involving the City’s animal shelter.

“It was brought to our attention that the group who had run it for many years had become very ‘closed-door,’” Ald. Tendam said. We started looking at their numbers and we saw that they were actually euthanizing dogs at a very alarming rate, 45% almost. The shelter had also become very disgustingly cramped, crowded, and dirty. We realized that some of those animals were being kept there for two years or more, and that was not a permanent residence, it was a pass-through place. First Ward Alderman [Judy] Fiske and I spearheaded the effort to terminate our relationship and bring in our own Evanston-based citizens’ group to take care of the animal shelter. We established our own animal control board and gave them oversight. These were professionals in the industry.”

Ald. Tendam  further recounted his work with LGBT issues, recalling that when he came into office, “We were all kind of surprised to find that same-sex couples in civil union relationships did not have spousal benefits. We fixed that very quickly. … We created a police liaison for the LGBTQ community as well, and a position at the Civic Center as well. The Council and Staff have always been open to any suggestions regarding gender and identification issues.”

Note: In January, Ald. Tendam submitted responses to a detailed Evanston RoundTable questionnaire about his experience and policy positions. Those responses, as well as profiles of all candidates in the April 4 General Election, letters in support of candidates, and information and letters about School District 65’s referendum, can be viewed in the RoundTable’s online paper at

Steve Hagerty, an Evanston-based emergency management consultant, says that he is running to be Evanston’s mayor in order to “help the City I live in every day.”

Mr. Hagerty is running against Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam in the mayoral contest to be decided April 4.

“I’ve found working with cities and communities around the country to be very rewarding,” Mr. Hagerty said. “I’ve done it for my entire career. It’s what I’ve wanted to do – it’s what I went to school to do. I think this is a special community, and I’m happy that my career has gone in the direction that has allowed me to do this.”

Mr. Hagerty said he has been gradually removing himself from the day-to-day operations of his firm, Hagerty Consulting, located in downtown Evanston. “Will things come up? Absolutely. … But it does not require my day-to-day attention, which is nice. Like any organization, it will be the same with the City: There are things that you plan for and things that suddenly happen.”

The most important duty of the mayor, he said, would be to make sure that the turnover of the City Manager, should that occur on his watch, proceed smoothly.

“It’s that person, on a day-to-day basis, that manages the City. All the department heads report to him or her. I think we have a really strong City Manager in Wally Bobkiewicz. He’s a professional. This is what he’s done for his entire career, but if the City Manager ever left, I think that is a really critical responsibility of the mayor,” said Mr. Hagerty.

The effectiveness of the mayor is difficult to measure in Evanston, he added. “We have a ‘strong city manager’ form of government. The mayor doesn’t have vote on City Council, unless it’s a tie. They can veto something, but it’s seldom used. It’s about influential leadership. You are, except for the City Clerk, the only citywide elected official. … You have a weekly meeting with the City Manager – that gives you the opportunity to help frame the agenda for the City and the Council.”

He added, “Hopefully with some smart question-asking and some probing, we can avoid some of the problems.”

Mr. Hagerty, who has been endorsed by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, former Mayor Lorraine Morton, and retiring Fifth Ward Ald. Delores Holmes, said that his business, non-profit, and committee experiences would make him well-suited to coalition-building, a skill the Evanston mayor’s post requires.

“A lot of problems cannot be addressed single-handedly,” he added. “We have all these different sectors – education, City [government], nonprofits, Northwestern University, the business community – and whatever the issues may be – affordability, crime, homelessness – that cut across all of those. I think the mayor sits at a unique perch in this community if they have that understanding of those sectors.”

His firm has never had any business with the City, he noted, adding, “That would be, in my opinion, a conflict of interest. We would never take on any business, if I were the mayor, with the City of Evanston.”

Mr. Hagerty also said that he would like to retain his seat on the board of directors of the local bank First Bank & Trust should he be elected. He maintained, however, that he would consult the City’s legal department about the ethical implications of doing so, and whether or not those could be mitigated. If they could not, he said, he would be willing to step down.

The RoundTable asked both Mr. Hagerty and Ald. Tendam what they each would most like to ask their opponent. Mr. Tendam, who has been significantly outspent by Mr. Hagerty, asked, “Do you acknowledge the merits of building a campaign [for elected office] by recognition, and a resume with 20-something years of public service, versus being a philanthropist and being able to afford a very expensive campaign?”

In an email reply, Mr. Hagerty answered, “I recognize that service to the public takes many different forms. Some citizens opt to run for elected office and serve in that manner. Some volunteer their time to the schools or a non-profit organization. Some help their neighbors. Some choose as their livelihood public sector employment (e.g., teachers, fire fighters, police officers, health professionals, etc.). Some choose to become philanthropic. Some choose to work on a political campaign for a candidate or a referendum. For some, it’s a combination of the above. 

“For me, public sector work has always been my predominant passion. It’s why I have a Master’s in Public Administration, why I worked for [PricewaterhouseCoopers’] Office of Government Services in Washington, D.C., for eight years, why I founded and built a successful management consulting firm that helps communities prepare for and recover from disasters, and why my family and I have committed our time and resources to Evanston over the last decade.

“In an age when our challenges can seem overwhelming, it’s more important than ever that we have residents that have an expansive view of public service. I don’t think one method of service is greater or lesser than another. It is one reason why I’m so optimistic about Evanston, because I see people contributing of their time and resources in so many positive ways, including the way Mark Tendam and I both have since we participated together in the Evanston Community Foundation’s Leadership Evanston program in 2003/2004.”

Note: In January, Mr. Hagerty submitted responses to a detailed Evanston RoundTable questionnaire about his experience and policy positions. Those responses, as well as profiles of all candidates in the April 4 General Election, letters in support of candidates, and information and letters about School District 65’s referendum, can be viewed in the Election Section at