Today, my term as Mayor of Evanston will come to an end. This evening, Daniel Biss will be sworn in as our 22nd Mayor, along with the 81st Evanston City Council. I hope you will offer Mayor Biss the support, encouragement, and personal perspective that so many of you generously offered me over the last four years.
Serving as Mayor of one of the best urban ring cities in America has been the honor of a lifetime. It has been the most interesting, fascinating, exasperating, and richest professional experience in my life. And like so many opportunities in life, it came about because a very slim margin of people in power (i.e., 50.47% of voters to be specific) were willing to give me a chance. Thank you!
Now, as many of you know, my entry into the public sector was not an easy one. Initially I wanted to work as a professional staff for the government. Fifty rejections later, it was clear the government thought otherwise. While those public sector jobs likely would not have led to hashtags like #silencethehag, emails with the subject line, “You will NOT get away with this!!!,” sent by my former neighbor, or a public statement from my 17-year-old daughter, who joined protesters outside of our home, they also wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to help lead Evanston during a strange, difficult, and uncertain time in history.
As seen in this five-minute video produced by our talented City staff, I am so proud of what the 80th City Council and our community as a whole has accomplished over the last four years. While we have had our disagreements – as any community or family does – don’t let anyone convince you that the bad in Evanston outweighs the good, or that this City needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Progress inevitably brings with it disagreement. As long as that disagreement is respectful of the facts, devoid of baseless, personal attacks, and contains good, honest, City-first intentions, then it’s good for Evanston. When it devolves into ambition, ego, name calling, lying, manipulation, and silencing, then it sets us back from focusing on the most important challenges our City faces.
In Evanston, let’s not let falsehoods replace facts, the overly critical replace critical thinking, or division replace unity. It’s easy to lob cheap political shots, fire off caustic remarks, or bully others, but none of that advances our City, it only hardens the resolve of others. What’s hard but necessary is cultivating relationships, collaborating with others, and understanding their perspective without placing a judgment on them. It’s only then that you can change the minds and perspectives of others or alter your own. If we keep this in mind, I’m confident Evanston’s accomplishments in the next chapter will be as noteworthy as those that came before it.
Thank you for hiring me four years ago and for the richest of experiences. All my best to Mayor Daniel Biss, our 81st Evanston City Council, our indefatigable City staff, led by City Manager Erika Storlie, and all of you.
With my deepest respect and gratitude,
— Stephen H. Hagerty