From the newsletter of City of Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss:
I wanted to share a few exciting updates with you, starting here: the City Council just voted unanimously to appoint Luke Stowe as City Manager.
Let me get one thing out of the way from the start: This was not the original plan. We didn’t spend 10 months and plenty of money paying search firms with the expectation that we’d wind up making an internal hire. So I wanted to take a moment to explain how we got here and why I strongly believe this is the right choice for our community.
First of all, one lesson of the lengthy search process is that it’s just a difficult time to hire for a role like this. At every stage, candidates have withdrawn their names. This includes various publicized examples, but also plenty of people who pulled out before their names would have been revealed.
I think this occurred for a variety of reasons. For one, there’s a tight labor market which makes public sector hiring challenging. For another, Evanston is a unique enough community that many skilled city managers across the country just clearly wouldn’t fit in well here; in the meantime, many talented prospects with different professional experience ultimately decided against a dramatic career (and life!) transition into city management.
Finally, some people have the impression that taking this job would put them in the middle of a highly contentious environment, and that’s simply not attractive to many potential candidates.
This brings me to the most critical point: Luke is exactly the right person for the moment. The truth is that these are contentious times, across the country and right here in Evanston. You can read elsewhere about Luke’s impressive resume and long history of effective work at the city, but what that doesn’t fully get across is that his superpower is building bridges and making sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
If you watch our City Council meetings, you’ve seen tense moments among elected officials, and between elected officials and community members. The diverse array of passionate voices is part of what makes Evanston Evanston, but it can also derail our ability to make progress unless those views are heard, included, and channeled in a productive direction.
In his time as interim City Manager and interim Deputy City Manager, I’ve repeatedly seen Luke find ways to turn down the temperature in difficult situations and find a productive solution that respects all stakeholders. That doesn’t mean he always agrees with everyone or finds consensus – that’s often impossible! And indeed, that’s just the point – we don’t need to agree in order to take input seriously, learn from it, and find a better path forward.
The last point is that this prolonged period of interim city management has been very challenging for our organization. It’s made it difficult to execute long-term plans, recruit senior staff, and maintain staff morale. Put simply, it’s made it difficult for us to get things done.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished even under these difficult circumstances, but I’m painfully aware of how much work is left to do, and I’m certain that much of that couldn’t have happened with an interim person in the City Manager’s seat. Now that we have the right person in the role, we’ll be able to get much more done – and I couldn’t be more excited for that.
Speaking of which, one project we have been able to make great progress on is the rolling out of our Guaranteed Income pilot program. This exciting partnership with Northwestern and the Evanston Community Foundation will allow us to put cash in the hands of residents who need it most. This program puts Evanston where it belongs, at the forefront of innovation in progressive policy. For more information, check out the video below and visit our webpage. Applications are open until Aug. 29. Please share this information widely!
And, finally, one more: We’re launching a Participatory Budgeting process to allow the community to directly steer the spending of some federal rescue dollars, and in order to plan and oversee that effort, we’re setting up a Steering Committee. If you’re interested in being a part of that effort, please apply at this link before Aug. 22.
Thank you as always for your partnership and belief in our community.
Mayor, City of Evanston