In a process with little public involvement thus far, Evanston City Council members are down to their final candidates in the search for the next City Manager, Council members said in reports to constituents this week.

In a 7th Ward virtual meeting held Dec. 16, Council member Eleanor Revelle provided a brief update on the search, reporting that “in the next few days we’ll be able to announce who the finalists for the position are.”

She said the finalists will be invited to Evanston in January to meet with residents.

Revelle also said Council members plan to have three panels evaluate the candidates:

  • One panel will be made up of city department heads who report directly to the City Manager.
  • The second will be with community stakeholders, composed of representatives from the nonprofit and business communities as well as large institutions (e.g. Northwestern University, the two hospitals, etc.).
  • A third panel will be made up of residents, Revelle said. “There’ll be an opportunity for any resident to submit their name to be chosen at random,” she said. “We’ll be picking a resident from each of the wards.”

Fleming says field narrowed to two

Council member Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, provided more specificity about the field in her email newsletter to constituents, which was sent out Friday, Dec. 17. She said Council members had narrowed the field from 10 to two candidates.

“I was absent at Tuesday’s [Dec. 14] meeting, due to the death of my mother,” Fleming reported, “so I sent my thoughts and choices to Council. They decided that, because I was not present, they would make the decision without considering my input. I want to thank Council member Tom Suffredin, Council member Eleanor Revelle, and Mayor [Daniel] Biss for their empathy.”

Fleming could not be reached immediately on Dec. 17 for additional comment.

City officials have provided few updates, only recently adding a page on the city’s website, in the search to find a replacement for City Manager Erika Storlie. Storlie resigned from her $225,000-a-year job Oct. 8 after less than a year in the position.

Storlie’s resignation came as the Council was launching an investigation into how top city officials handled complaints from female lifeguards at the lakefront in 2020. The complaints alleged widespread sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by supervisory staff.

On Sept. 27, Council members approved a $25,000 contract with Sacramento-based CPS HR to conduct a nationwide search to fill Storlie’s position.

On Oct. 30, the firm conducted a virtual town hall meeting, attended by about 30 residents, to receive community feedback regarding ideal candidate attributes.

But otherwise there has been little attempt to involve the public in the pre-finalists search, according to two grassroots activist groups in a statement issued Dec. 6.

Members of the Community Alliance for Better Government and Reclaim Evanston maintained that to date, “public input” had “consisted of one very sparsely attended town hall and a vaguely worded resident survey,” and offered to meet with the hiring team to provide additional guidance.

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.