Open Letter to Heidi Voorhees, GovHRUSA


Citizens’ Network of Protection (CNP), Community Alliance for Better Government, Dear Evanston, Evanston Fight for Black Lives, Evanston Minority Business Consortium, Evanston Voter Initiative, ESPCAR – Every Single Person Committed to Anti-Racism, Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL), Reclaim Evanston

RE: Ideal Evanston City Manager: Job Description

DATE: July 4, 2020 (UPDATE)

As groups composed of a wide swath of Evanstonians, we come together in response to the City’s stated call to the community for input in the City Manager selection process: “In order to make this a transparent and public process, the City is soliciting feedback from the community regarding the characteristics and traits the new city manager should possess as well as the opportunities and challenges he/she may face.”


Political Systems Change

Charged with carrying forth the vision of its elected officials, who in turn represent the people of Evanston in all their diversity, the City Manager executes policy and sets a powerful example of behavior and tone throughout Evanston.

Today’s Evanston requires an intelligent, compassionate, and scrupulously honest lead staff member who is committed to dismantling policies, programs and practices that embed favoritism based on race, class, and neighborhood. Last year, Evanston set a national example in launching a Reparations program. The City Council also adopted, in June 2019, a formal resolution “to end structural racism and achieve racial equity” by “eradicating the effects of systemically racist past practices from City Government and all City-affiliated organizations.” The next City Manager will advance this agenda that substitutes systemic inclusion for systemic racism.

A high-functioning Evanston city government is actively anti-racist. It has a healthy economy and democratic practices like full transparency and civic engagement that works for everyone. This means that Evanston’s democracy is reflective of the diversity of the community – with staff reflecting the demographics of the community they serve. It means that the City Manager is recruiting and supporting staff members — and in conjunction with the City Council, board and commission members — who share these values, and then supports and holds them accountable once they are hired.

The Position

The City Manager has the primary responsibility for managing the City’s day-to-day operations, directing the work and development of staff, and serving as their primary spokesperson. 

The City Manager must maintain a working knowledge of issues and policies and be a leader and manager adept at balancing internal management with external impact and visibility. The individual must be an outstanding communicator who is able to convey effectively the mission and activities of the City of Evanston to a variety of constituencies, as well as to the broader public.

The City Manager is responsible for ensuring a healthy, dynamic, just, fully engaged and transparent City government.

The City’s work must be rooted in racial justice and accountability to those most impacted by policies and politics.

Operationalize racial equity as a core lens through which we measure success in every City department.

Institute restorative justice practices and transform a culture and budget that depends on punitive enforcement systems (e.g., car ticketing, criminalizing homelessness, etc.) into one that makes prevention, nonviolence, and mediation the rule in all departments.

Actively engage with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity in accordance with the City Council resolution of June 2019.

Recruit and retain staff members who share these values. Provide professional development opportunities and motivating career paths, and reward success.

Supervise director-level staff and empower them. Provide support and guidance through weekly and ad hoc check-in meetings, and yearly reviews.

Ensure legal and financial compliance and a strong, transparent fiscal position.

Lead with empathy and vulnerability, and guide a supportive, fun, challenging, rewarding, and warm team culture that allows staff to bring their full, authentic selves to their work.

Will work with the mayor to ensure that these same values and practices are followed when selecting boards and commissions.

Participatory Budgeting

Recognize that the Evanston City budget is first and foremost a political document, reflective of the values and priorities of the people of the City.

Create a system of social cost accounting in Evanston that separates business costs – expenses incurred to generate the optimum net income – with social costs, which are those expenses that are incurred and forgone in the name of the program’s social goals.

Develop mechanisms of budget analysis and development, including the source and uses of revenues, for each department that allows for citizen participation.

Avoid fines and fees which balance the budget on and disproportionately affect lower-income communities and people of color

External Relations and Leadership

Provide visible, respected political leadership in the community.

Commitment to public participation, and measurable accountability to incorporating public input into decision-making, must be a hallmark of the next City Manager’s role execution. Actively solicit public input into all facets of city government, from individual conversations to neighborhood-based meetings. 

Promote and replicate successful innovations from other cities in order to incorporate best practices into Evanston’s strategy.


Commitment to the mission, vision, and values of Evanston.

Individual who has experience or a documented history in addressing the disparities birthed by systemic racism.

Excellent communicator and writer, with experience as a spokesperson who can tailor messages to different audiences.

Experience and cultural proficiency working with politically underrepresented communities, including but not limited to youth, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, immigrant and refugee communities, LGBTQ communities, and justice-involved communities.

Proven ability to work in a dynamic environment and build strong partnerships. Takes initiative and can make tough decisions.

Success supervising and mentoring staff and teams, including professional and leadership development.

Strategic, systems thinker, and creative problem solver.

Collaborative leadership style, engaging and confident interpersonal style.

Key Traits

Honesty and track record of integrity

Listener: take the time to hear what each person has to say and understand their point of view

Facilitation and convening skills

Skilled in nonviolent conflict resolution methods

Community coaching and mentoring


Systemic and analytic point of view

Knowledge of how to educate the media



Firm: will follow through and remain true to values despite pressure from entrenched powerful interests

(Adapted from this job description and publications on racial equity)

About Us

  • Citizens’ Network of Protection (CNP) promotes police accountability, transparency, and oversight, which is the foundation for residents dealing with police misconduct. (Contact: Betty Ester,
  • Community Alliance for Better Government is an alliance for scores of Evanstonians. (Contact: Bennett Johnson, Rick Marsh, Oliver Ruff, and Gail Schechter, c/o
  • Dear Evanston is a local news source whose vision is an equitable and inclusive Evanston, free of violence. (Contact: Nina Kavin,

  • Evanston Fight for Black Lives stands with the values of the national Black Lives Matter Movement whose mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” (Contact: Liana Wallace,

  • Evanston Minority Business Consortium is dedicated to increasing the amount of jobs and contracts for its members in the construction industry and to provide training and other learning experiences. (Contact: Bennett Johnson,

  • Evanston Voter Initiative is dedicated to a participatory democracy process that will give Evanstonians the opportunity to create ordinances that can be passed by the voters, through the power of referendum. (Contact: Allie Harned,

  • ESPCAR – Every Single Person Committed to Anti-Racism is dedicated to the work of anti-racism in Evanston. (Contact: Allie Harned,

  • Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL) works to achieve racial equity through advocacy, voter education, civic engagement, and candidate development. (Contact: Alyce Barry,

  • Reclaim Evanston is the Evanston affiliate of Reclaim Chicago, which is devoted to reclaiming government at all levels as a means for ensuring justice, promoting equality and improving the lives of ALL people. (Contact: Elliot Zashin,