Deputy Clerk Eduardo Gomez (left) records the proceedings as City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza pulls another ping-pong ball from a box in a lottery on Jan. 5. The lottery determined which residents will serve on a panel to interview the final two candidates for Evanston’s next City Manager. (RoundTable photo)

A cardboard box salvaged from storage, some ping-pong balls and a colleague to record the ceremony – all the ingredients needed to conduct a lottery determining which citizens would serve on a panel to interview the two final candidates to fill the position of Evanston City Manager.

Evanston City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza conducted the lottery in her office at the sparsely populated Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Competition to be one of the two representatives per ward was stiff.

Close to 90 residents applied to be part of the process.

The applications were time stamped as they were received. Those residents who signed up early to be part of the selection process appeared to fare best. Mendoza kept plucking out ping-pong balls with the numeral 1 inked on them, the low number signifying early sign-ups.

The city is down to two candidates in its search for a new City Manager. Michael Jasso, Assistant City Manager for the City of Sacramento, Calif., and Daniel Ramos, Deputy Chief of Staff/Deputy City Administrator for the City of Baltimore, Md., are the two finalists, the city has announced. A virtual town meeting with the candidates is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. today, Sunday, Jan. 9, over Zoom. For more details, visit the city website.

Three panels – including the panel of community members, a panel of city staff and a panel of business and nonprofit stakeholders – will have the opportunity to interview the two finalist candidates. 

Those interviews are scheduled to take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 13.

The drama over which citizens would serve on the panel unfolded in Mendoza’s office on a freezing winter day. 

Mendoza reached in the box, shaking up the balls between selections.

“I finally found a use for the balls that were in the supply closet,” the new Clerk said.

Deputy City Clerk Eduardo Gomez stood by, recording the proceedings on his phone. Council member Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, was in the office looking on.

Ping-pong balls bearing the number 1 were pulled out for a number of wards.

Varied backgrounds

The list included a number of residents active in community affairs: Jane Grover, a former Council member; Rodney Greene, a former City Clerk; Sebastian Nalls, a former mayoral candidate, Rick Marsh, an activist and former president of the city’s Recreation Board; and Wendy Pollock, an environmentalist.

Here is the full list by ward, released on Jan. 7:

1st — Betsy Wilson and Lynda Crawford
2nd — Kate Schwartz and Beth McDonald
3rd — Allyn Wilcox Rawling and Jeanne Marie Olson
4th — Susan Barrett-Kelly and Wendy Pollock
5th — Rodney Greene and Scott Mangum
6th — John Frank and Megan Lutz
7th — Jane Grover and Pamela Ferdinand
8th — Linta Xarter-Weathers and Rick Marsh
9th — Sebastian Nalls and Shama Jacover

Bob Seidenberg

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.