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Aldermen to debate making Storlie manager

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Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to consider a resolution offered by Mayor Steve Hagerty that the city stop looking for a new city manager and appoint interim city manager Erika Storlie to the job.

The proposal has drawn opposition from at least two activist groups.

OPAL, the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership, of which Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, is a board member, has organized a protest demonstration against the plan for 4 p.m. Monday in the Civic Center parking lot.

The group, which fought against Storlie’s termination of Kevin Brown from his job as community services manager for the city, and in a letter to the council, accuses Storlie of having “a limited racial equity lens,” although Storlie replaced Brown, a black male, with Audrey Thompson, a black female.

Fleming opposed the move to appoint Storlie when Hagery first suggested it at a Council meeting on May 26.

The Central Street Neighbors Association also is objecting to the move, suggesting that the city should either move forward with national search or postpone the selection of a new city manager until after next April’s municipal election.

Much of the Central Street group’s territory is represented by Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, who has also opposed the mayor’s call for the appointment of Storlie.

Fleming and Suffredin previously led efforts that delayed for months the selection of a search firm to conduct the search for a new manager. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the search has essentially been suspended for the past few months.

Except for Fleming and Suffredin, it appeared at the May 26 meeting that the idea of naming Storlie the city’s next manager had substantial support among the aldermen.

Former Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz was named city administrator in Issaquah, Washington, last August. The aldermen named Storlie, who had been assistant city manager, to the interim manager post in September

Hagerty has argued that Storlie has demonstrated her qualifications for the permanent position while serving as interim city manager during the pandemic and that top-quality candidates from elsewhere would be reluctant to leave their current jobs as long as the pandemic crisis continues.

If the Council followed the CSNA suggestion and postponed a search until after next April’s election, then, assuming a six-month search process, Storlie likely would end up holding the “interim” title for over two years.

The mayor’s resolution calls for only introducing the appointment resolution Monday and taking a final vote on it two weeks later, to give additional time to gather public comment.

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Council moves toward naming Storlie manager (5/27/20)

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