Evanston City Council members, whose jobs are part time under the city’s council/manager form of government, have – for better or worse – pretty much handled the responsibilities of the office on their own.

That will change, though, after the council approved an 11th-hour budget amendment Dec. 12, contracting with a company to provide council members with virtual executive assistant support.

Bobby Burns, 5th Ward council member Credit: Richard Cahan

Council member Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, proposed the amendment, allocating $68,042 to Worxbee, a company specializing in executive assistance.

Lest council members view the amendment as a “late-game discussion” item, Burns said the Dec. 12 proposal began as a referral he made several months before, prior to any formal budget discussions.

Burns said he recommended Worxbee after he had looked around at some of the other companies that offered virtual executive assistant solutions.

He said Worxbee has been around the longest. In addition, he said, the Atlanta-based company also has virtual assistants that are located in the U.S., “which I thought was important,” as well as a reasonable pricing structure.

He proposed the city enter a short-term commitment with the company, taking into account some of the expenses the city is taking on with higher pension payments and increased salaries.

Earlier in the evening, during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting, a Worxbee representative, participating online, popped up amid other speakers to talk about the company.

Dylan Smith, the firm’s business development manager, said the company was founded in 2013 by Kenzie Biggins and is a minority- and female-owned business.

Smith said the company’s executive assistants come pre-vetted with an average of 10 years of experience. They work remotely and on an as-needed basis and are active only when they are actually providing support.

He said the company could create ward newsletters and provide calendar support.

Council member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, seconded Burns motion to contract with Worxbee and spoke in support.

“I think many of us understand the need for assistance, particularly in a ward that would have a higher need,” Reid said.

“The Fifth Ward, the Eighth Ward have the largest minority population, the highest rate of poverty in the city,” he pointed out. “So I think this is desperately needed for all of us to be better communicating with residents and being able to expand our ability to do this work.”

In further discussion, Council Member Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, asked whether there had been any process used to identify a firm to provide the executive assistant service.

Burns said his search did not show a lot of companies that performed the service and said many that did were new and had popped up since Covid.

He said Worxbee’s experience as well as a reasonable pricing structure figured in their selection.

Council members voted 7-1 in favor of the $68,042 amendment with Kelly casting the lone no vote.

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.

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