Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the second deputy manager position is a vacant city position, not a recently created position.

Hiring a manager of Equity and Organizational Performance is one of City Manager Luke Stowe’s top priorities in 2023.

Evanston City Manager Luke Stowe Credit: Richard Cahan

He said, the city is posting the equity manager position on its website and other “normal channels” this week.

“I would describe this as critical work – especially in light of the report that we’ve received,” Stowe said, referring to the City of Evanston Black Employees Action Group’s report. “It’s obvious the city needs to do better going forward, so it will be one of our highest priorities in 2023.”

He said the city will also be looking to fill the vacant second deputy manager position to relieve him of some of his duties, so he can dedicate more time to managing the equity manager.

The city isn’t opposed to considering internal applicants, but city staff want someone with a “fresh outside perspective” and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work experience, Stowe said.

The search to fill the equity manager position comes a month after the anonymous group the City of Evanston Black Employees Action Group released a detailed report highlighting more than 60 allegations of racial discrimination within the city government. Shortly afterward, more than dozens of community members demanded action from the City Council.

“We need a leader, right, an internal leader, to take us forward and take us to the next step, and I think that’s what this position will be able to do,” Stowe said in reference to the manager of Equity and Organizational Performance position.

Kathleen Yang-Clayton, Evanston volunteer on the city’s Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee Credit: University of Illinois Chicago

The equity manager will work under the direction of Stowe as the city’s “principal advisor” for racial equity within the workplace. The person selected for the role will coordinate and administer racial equity training for city staff, advise all layers of the city on DEI, review city’s policies and procedures with a DEI lens, track performance and conduct and present research.

Multiple hands will assist in the equity manager search process. The Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee (REDI), a cross section of city employees and one or more commissioners from the Equity and Empowerment Commission will help Stowe with the interview process.

The committee played a role in drafting the equity manager job description and will work closely with the person selected to fill the role.

Kathleen Yang-Clayton, who is a member of the committee’s leadership team, said the committee’s research as well as national studies show that the DEI position shouldn’t be a figurehead. Instead, the position should be firmly embedded in the workplace’s organizational structure.

This isn’t the first time the city has had an equity manager type position. Evanston’s chief equity officer position had very similar responsibilities. Stowe said that position lacked internal support, however.

Chief equity officer vs. equity manager

When the chief equity officer position was filled by Patricia Efiom from 2017 to 2020, things were different. For one, the committee didn’t exist yet, Stowe said.

Patricia Efiom was Chief Equity Officer for the city. She passed away in September 2021,

The Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee (REDI) is made up of city employee volunteers who have been practicing operationalizing racial equity for the past two years. The group worked on equity projects that improved language access, employee education access, new manager training and service provision.

So when the newly hired equity manager begins working, that person won’t have to reinvent the wheel but instead can build off of the committee’s work, explained Yang-Clayton.

“One of the things that is going to be a huge resource is REDI,” Yang-Clayton said. “They’re not going to have to come in and have to figure out ‘Who can I work with? Who really wants to do this work?’ We’ve already started it.” 

The equity manager will also be supported and empowered by the city manager, Stowe said. 

“I will be making it very clear to all the directors and managers and supervisors that this person will have the backing directly from the city manager to be able to implement and operationalize the racial equity initiatives that we want to put forward, many of which are highlighted in that report,” Stowe said, referencing the City of Evanston Black Employees Action Group’s report.

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative...

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  1. With the open letter from 30 Black Evanston employees across the organizational hierarchy and within a year of the sexual harassment lifeguard scandal, it is clear that the Human Resources Department has failed its Black employees first and foremost. It has also treated staff inequitably based on age and gender, as reflected last year with the lifeguard scandal. Moreover, the City has conducted recent hiring searches of major staff positions in a haphazard, often closed-door manner. The answer is not hiring another racial equity manager or conduct more internal studies.

    The City of Evanston should remediate its own workplace by outsourcing all human relations functions to a vetted outside contractor. Such a contractor, also skilled in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice practices, would handle confidential employee relations matters, oversee seraches and hiring, represent the City in searching for improved employee benefits, ensure compliance with all applicable labor laws, and conduct a full equity audit of employment policies and practices.

    Outsourcing has many advantages, chief of which is impartiality, expertise, and accountability for results. I suggest the City Manager consult with the Society for Human Resource Management and the Government Alliance on Racial Equity on next steps, including drafting a Request for Qualifications to HR firms. This doesn’t have to be permanent. But Evanston’s internal human resources system is broken and needs to be fixed. Outsourcing is tantamount to putting trust into a receiver for a specific amount of time who will rectify the discriminatory wrongs that have pervaded the Civic Center for decades once and for all.

    The City Council and City Manager would do well to put themselves in the shoes of Black employees and all who have experienced discrimination in the municipal workplace. They can do the right thing and hire a neutral, skilled third party to take over all human resources functions for the City of Evanston.

  2. Adding new staff without subtracting the racist staff maintains systemic racism at the City of Evanston.

    An interesting aspect to all of this is a refusal to address the actual concerns of Black employees cited in their report highlighting the pervasive systemic racism at the City of Evanston.

    One of the employees’ major allegations was against the first Deputy City Manager hired by City Manager Stowe. That Deputy City Manager remains employed by the City. If that employment continues then the hiring of a DEI manager will have little impact upon the racist culture at the City of Evanston. There are actual City staff members (real people) practicing discrimination. Keeping those individuals in their positions continues the racism.