Evanston Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski announced this morning that she will resign as of July 11 for a new job at Elrod Friedman, a land use and government law firm serving the public and private sectors, according to a news release from the city.
“Kelley Gandurski stepped into the role of interim City Manager with very little warning, and with the expectation that it would last a few short months. Instead, she was called upon to lead our staff for more than eight months as we encountered enormously complex and high-stakes challenges,” said Mayor Daniel Biss in the release.
“Our whole community owes her a great debt of gratitude for an extremely difficult job very well done. I personally thank her for her service and wish her all the best in the next phase of her career.”
Biss said there will be more information coming in the next few days about appointing a new interim City Manager. But he also announced he will be part of a Town Hall Meeting with the Evanston RoundTable about the City Manager search process at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 12. RoundTable Executive Editor Tracy Quattrocki will moderate the Town Hall.
The news of Gandurski’s departure comes less than 24 hours after City Council member Peter Braithwaite, Second Ward, announced that he will be stepping down from his seat, ending more than 10 years representing one of Evanston’s most diverse wards. Like Gandurski, Braithwaite’s resignation will take effect at the July 11 City Council meeting.
Braithwaite, who recently lost his mother, told fellow Council members at their June 27 meeting that serving on the Council and representing his ward for a decade was “a huge honor and privilege.”
“Over the past several months, there have been some life-changing experiences that myself and my family have gone through, and it has been a deep period of reflection,” he said in explaining his decision-making process. “I’ve had many conversations, deep conversations with some of my peers. I’ve worked very closely with some members of of the community.”
These latest resignations follow a tumultuous year for the Council and city staff, which saw two City Manager searches end without a hire. Gandurski stepped in for departing City Manager Erika Storlie in September 2021 after Storlie resigned amid the fallout from a sexual harassment scandal among seasonal lakefront workers uncovered by WBEZ Chicago almost a year ago.
In January, the Council’s top candidate to replace Storlie, Daniel Ramos, a Deputy City Manager for the City of Baltimore, took a job in Texas instead. Months later, after the Council hired a new recruiting firm and launched a second search process, the city’s chosen candidate, John Fournier, could not come to terms on a contract with the city.
Braithwaite is also set to become the second Council member to step down in the last six months. Cicely Fleming, Ninth Ward, resigned in January, saying the Dec. 8 death of her mother, Marsha Cole, a much-praised senior housing advocate, was a key factor in her decision. After an application and interview process, Biss appointed Juan Geracaris to the seat.
In Tuesday morning’s news release, the city praised Gandurski for taking on a number of key roles over the last two years, including Corporation Counsel, Deputy City Manager and interim City Manager. Over the last nine months in the interim City Manager position, she oversaw the development of the city’s plans for using American Rescue Plan Act funds and helped build a citywide Coalition to End Homelessness, according to the press release.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to have served the City of Evanston and members of the City Council as interim city manager,” said Gandurski. “I am proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together during this short time, and I look forward to seeing the community build on the progress that has been made on so many fronts. Thank you to the City Council and the entire Evanston community for providing me the opportunity to serve in this critical role and to lead such fine, professional and capable staff.”