“When it comes to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, a majority of the City Council feel [he] is meeting or exceeding expectations,” Mayor Stephen Hagerty (right) said of Mr. Bobkiewicz (at left) in remarks at the Feb. 11 City Council meeting.   RoundTable photo

A majority of Evanston City Council members feel City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz is meeting or exceeding expectations.

The City Manager’s performance has not been diminished in his pursuit of jobs elsewhere, said Mayor Stephen Hagerty in a statement at the start of the City Council meeting Feb. 11.

“Mr. Bobkiewicz has the right to apply for other jobs,” he said. “The process of doing so does not, in my opinion, disqualify him from the job he has as our City Manager. In my time, working with Mr. Bobkiewicz, I have not observed a decline in his effort, service or quality when it comes to delivering services for Evanston. He continues to be a competent leader and manager,” said Mr. Hagerty, who assumed office in May 2017.

The Mayor said he was responding to statements made in the past six weeks or so during which a few residents had questioned the City Manager’s tenure, “asserting his application for some other jobs show he is therefore not committed to Evanston.”

The City Manager has been a finalist for several jobs in the Pacific Northwest area in recent years. He was recently one of five finalists for a top administrator job in Clackamas County in Oregon. He has stated publicly he is considering jobs when they make sense professionally in that area, where his wife’s family members reside. 

In his ward newsletter last week, Sixth Ward Alderman Thomas Suffredin had suggested that it was time for the City to have a public discussion about the future of the City Manager position, maintaining the manager’s uncertain job status had placed the city in an “interminable holding pattern.”

 In addition, Ald. Suffredin pointed out that the City was ill-prepared if Mr. Bobkiewicz should leave, with no successor plan in place.

 In his remarks, Mayor Hagerty noted that in performance reviews the Council conducted last fall, “the City Manager’s  composite score met or exceeded expectations in each of the nine categories he was evaluated.”

In addition, Mr. Bobkiewicz – City Manager since 2009 and the second longest serving City Manager in Evanston history, received “general praise during this evaluation for his leadership and strategic planning  and operations and delivery of City services, resulting in several  successful citywide infrastructure improvements – Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road,  James  Park field, Fleetwood-Jourdain and Chandler-Newberger etc.,” the Mayor said.

He said other achievements cited in the City Manager’s favor included the “hiring and promotion of a talented, hard-working diverse leadership,” pursuit of inter-agency agreements with the CTA regarding changes to the Purple Line, a new water sales agreement and improvement to policing procedures.

He stressed that he will continue to support Mr. Bobkiewicz “as our City Manager and in his pursuit of his next career opportunity, but I will not support ending his tenure unless his commitment or service to the City is diminished.”

He said should the point come where the city has to look for a new City Manager, “I do support working with the aldermen to discuss and plan how that roll-out will occur.”

Ald. Suffredin, in some brief remarks which followed the Mayor’s statement, apologized for any “indelicate language,” he may have used toward Mr. Bobkiewicz or the Mayor in pursuing his concerns about the position.

He was not seeking a new performance evaluation, he said, but believed  that procedures and policies for a vacancy in the City Manager’s position” should be in place –  “like we have for every elected position up here,” he said, referring to Council positions.

Discussing his position after, Ald. Suffredin noted after that even if an interim manager were to be named if the City Manager left, “you’re already down a player – the clock is ticking.

“Why not have a plan?” he asked.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.