Cicely Fleming hosted her last Ninth Ward meeting as a member of the Evanston City Council Saturday, Jan. 22, over Zoom to a crowd of ward residents. Fifty people attended her virtual send-off, and the council member of five years laid out the details of her transition out of the role.
Fleming’s final day on the council is Feb. 14.
Fleming delivered her announcement of resignation at the end of the Dec. 20 council meeting, noting that the Dec. 8 death of her mother, Marsha Cole, was a critical factor in her decision.
It “reminded me that life is very short. I think we forget that because we are busy living and no one thinks about when they’re going to die,” she said.
Illinos state law says that if an elected office becomes vacant, the mayor appoints the replacement, who in this case will serve until 2023.
“I am not choosing, I’m not recommending, and I’m not giving counsel to the mayor,” Fleming said during the Zoom meeting. “It’s his decision, [but] the person does have to get the vote and support of the council. So it’s not solely the mayor’s decision.”
There is no standard process for this replacement, but Mayor Daniel Biss has determined that he will have an open application process.
The application will open Monday, Jan. 31, Fleming said. The mayor will leave applications open for two weeks, and they will be due on Feb. 14.
On either Wednesday, Feb. 16, or Thursday, Feb. 17, there will be a public meeting where the candidates can formally introduce themselves to the public. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the mayor will announce his choice. And finally on Monday, Feb. 28, there will be a confirmation, and that person will sit at the City Council meeting.
The Ninth Ward council seat will be empty for two weeks after Flemings’ final day on Feb. 14, so any concerns Ninth ward residents have during that time should be directed to the mayor.
Six potential candidates introduce themselves
At Saturday’s meeting, Fleming left time for interested candidates to introduce themselves informally to the Zoom attendees.
Here are the people who announced their interest:
Shawn Jones ran against Fleming in the 2017 council election and is stepping up again to contend for the role. Jones has served on the Housing & Community Development Committee for four years and was a reporter for the RoundTable for 10 years.
“I’m an attorney here in town representing small businesses and working on real estate transactions.”
Kathy Hayes is a born-and-raised Evanstonian and a five-year resident of the Ninth Ward. Hayes is a retired case manager, social worker and analyst. She also worked with Cook County for 35 years in public government.
“I so appreciate the work that you’ve done, Cicely, for all these years, holding it down and being your authentic self. I appreciate you. But it is my interest to also participate in continuing a lot of the work that you’ve done in supporting this ward.”
Sebastian Nalls is a 21-year old Purdue University student who ran for mayor of Evanston in 2021. He has lived in the Ninth Ward for nine years. Currently, Nalls works for the governor of Illinois in the Office of Equity “working on diversity, equity and inclusion plans for 38 state agencies.” He said he also works on a number of boards for Evanston advocacy groups.
“I’m really looking forward to this process. Thank you, Council member Fleming, for the work that you’ve done so far.”
Daniel Coyne lives on Monroe Street in Evanston. Coyne ran unsuccessfully for Ninth Ward alderman in 2015. He works as a social worker at Lincoln Elementary and Oakton Elementary schools.
“Cicely, I just want to say thank you for your service. Truly, you’ve done a great job, and you’ve represented us and our entire city. … And I also want to say thank you for modeling what I think is very healthy self-care and your resignation I thought was courageous and spot-on.”
Juan Geracaris has lived and worked in Evanton for the past 30 years. He has called the Ninth Ward his home for the past 14. He said he’s a proud parent of two kids at Oakton Elementary school, where he has been PTA vice president the last two years “heading up a liaison position with the Spanish-speaking families there.” He’s a board member of Evanston Latinos, a local nonprofit, and Next Steps, an Evanston group driving equity initiatives in the city.
“You guys may know me as the guy with the chickens. I live on Ridge [Avenue] and South Boulevard and have the big garden there with the chicken coop.”
Ric Goodwill has lived in the Ninth Ward for 15 years. He’s raised three kids in the Evanston school system and has one child left at Evanston Township High School. Goodwill said he has been active with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and the Alliance for Great Lakes, an environmental organization.
“I happen to live in one of the old alderman’s former home, Gene Feldman, who was an alderman for the longest time. Perhaps that gives me some credentials, I would say it doesn’t. But maybe he’s invaded my sleep. So here I am.”
The complete list of candidates will be released by the mayor on Feb. 16 or Feb. 17.