Dylan Smith of Worxbee speaking to the Council meeting Monday night.

A last-minute addition to the 2023 Evanston city budget will give council members some outsourced staffing help.

On a motion by Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), the City Council Monday night approved spending $68,042 to get a total of 80 hours a month of executive assistant help during 2023 from a New York-based company called Worxbee.

Dylan Smith, business development manager for Worxbee, told the Council the company’s virtual administrative assistant solution can handle unique needs on a fractional hours model, including producing ward newsletters.

Burns and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) have been pushing for such staff support and previously proposed that the city create a fund that would let each alder hire his or her own contractor to perform such tasks.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said he’d prefer that an employee be added to the city staff to do that work, but that he’d “reluctantly support” the outsourcing idea for next year.

The proposal was approved on a 7-1 vote with Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) voting no.

The $68,042 fee works hour to an hourly rate for the job of $70.88.

Burns, in a phone call Tuesday morning with Evanston Now, said his understanding from the company is that — because they only bill for actual hours worked — they deliver twice as much value for the hourly rate as having a regular employee — who would end up being paid for breaks and various distractions during the business day.

In another late addition to the budget, the Council voted 8-0 in favor of an amendment from Burns to provide $70,000 in city support for the Shorefront Legacy Center, a non-profit that documents Black history on the North Shore.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great. Outsourcing jobs to some out-of-state company.

    And for what?

    To put together newsletters that are 90% press releases copied and pasted from materials prepared by city staff.

    What a ridiculous waste of money.

  2. Burns and Reid are positioning themselves to push for council seats to be full time Chicago style offices. What do they need personal staff for if not to promote their own private agendas.

    1. Somehow this position wasn’t necessary for DECADES of City Council work, money is tight everywhere now but can be found to pay an out-of-state-person $70.88 an hour for (as Councilmember Burns notes in his comment) things like “email & calendar management, drafting correspondence and time management/coordination, and social media updates ” which all read like relatively simple jobs an Alderman could (and used to) do themselves. The laziness and arrogance are tough to deal with from people collecting and spending our money.

      I guess on the upside, going through a contractor prevents Reid and Burns from creating a new set of patronage jobs – perhaps someone at Worxbee can remind Reid to start sending in rent checks.

      1. I agree completely.

        This council and this mayor have not as yet demonstrated the ability to build and sustain a creative and productive workplace or penchant for teamwork or reasonable solutions.

        It appears that their past collective experiences have not prepared them for these responsibilities, executive decision making, or corporate governance.

        Paying for admins, taxpayer funding of campaigns is 100% incorrect.

        Roll up your sleeves elected officials, and burn the midnight oil as does virtually every public and private school teacher, as well as achievers in the private sector.

        If you are not up to it, seek another way to provide service.

        The recently published list of priorities and goals is naive and poorly considered.

        Instead first, secure safety, deregulate and gain efficiencies to encourage commerce and job creation, ensure Evanston is more attractive that surrounding cities and villages, once accomplished, the goals now at the top of your list will follow.

        Start building the foundation vs muddling in the middle.

        One would like to think that prowess will grow soon, or that new more capable leaders will be elected, but by the time elections roll around the damage will be done, and incredibly hard to undo.

  3. Good afternoon Tyler,

    Assistance with newsletter coordination are only one of twelve needed services that were identified by Worxbee after interviewing a majority of the Councilmembers. Some of the other services are email & calendar management and coordination, task/action item execution/followup, policy research, task/action item, time management/coordination, drafting correspondence, meeting note transcription, social media updates, and data analysis. So again, much more comprehensive than newsletter coordination.

    Feel free to reach out directly with any followup questions: bburns@cityofevanston.org

    Councilmember Burns (5th Ward, Evanston)

  4. Good evening DDT Suzuki,

    I’ve taken some time to respond to your comments. Thanks for reaching out.

    Comment: Somehow this position wasn’t necessary for DECADES of City Council work.

    Response: Not true. I’ve discussed this with previous Councilmembers and current (there’s a reason this passed with 7-1 vote), and many of the Councilmembers that have served Evanston over the last fifteen years have expressed concerns about the need for some basic admin support for Councilmembers. In fact, many have needed to hire interns out of their personal funds to keep up with the demand of the job.

    Comment: money is tight everywhere now but can be found to pay an out-of-state-person $70.88

    Response: We’re going to be paired with TWO virtual executive assistants for 80 active hours, for less than what we’d pay a single full time hire (insurance would increase the amount), for the same amount of hours when you deduct for non-work related hours that employees typically pay for with FTE. Further, you’re framing a virtual hire as a negative, when I see obvious benefits: wider pool of candidates, lower costs for the city, and potentially more satisfied “employees” that don’t have to commute to do work that can be easily performed remotely.

    Comment: things like “email & calendar management, drafting correspondence and time management/coordination, and social media updates ” which all read like relatively simple jobs an Alderman could (and used to) do themselves.

    Response: Again, many Councilmembers have expressed a need for additional staff support, and while the tasks are “simple” the volume demands the admin support that we now have approved with a 7-1 vote.

    Comment: The laziness and arrogance are tough to deal with from people collecting and spending our money.

    Response: I don’t think you can find a single city staff person or Councilmember that would characterize my approach to this work as “Lazy.” Further, I’m a tax payer as well and I take my fiduciary responsibility seriously.

    Comment: I guess on the upside, going through a contractor prevents Reid and Burns from creating a new set of patronage jobs.

    Response: My goal was always to find a solution to address the admin needs of Councilmembers. My original idea, to set aside funding for Councilmembers that would be managed by City Managers Office, was a first attempt at a proposal. The Executive Virtual Assistant proposal was my second and final attempt which successfully passed with a 7-1 vote. I’m glad you see some benefit. At least we agree there. Happy holidays!

    Councilmember Burns

    1. The main difference between past council members and the current council is that past council members stepped up and did the work. Good thing Worxbee stepped in to identify the 12 needed services that enabled you to exercise your serious fiduciary responsibilities and bill us taxpayers to do the work you knew came with the job.

    2. Hi Councilmember Burns – Thank you for taking the time to address this issue in this forum. I find your arguments persuasive and therefore support this proposal which seems quite reasonable.

  5. Spend Spend Spend – i love that it is a last second addition to the budget with no public discussion. Why don’t we hire all these consultants that the council uses to do their work.

  6. CM Burns,
    I know that the council is filled with hard working, well intended people. Being on the council is generally a thankless job. However, our elected public service jobs all fall into that category – demanding, thankless, hard and without much in the way of pay. Every council member who successfully ran for office knew that the job would be demanding and without an assistant. Ward newsletters and the like would require your “virtual assistant” to understand the issues you wish to present, which means you will have to pump out documents for the assistant to work on. Assistants require your management and time, so I am not convinced this expense will be helpful. I am aware that the current staff at the city is bogged down with their many tasks, including the endless research they do to keep up with the endless number of referrals. You knew the job would be time consuming and hard and yet you wanted the job, so I am troubled by the added expense for the virtual assistant.
    Question – will the assistant provided equal time to all the CM’s? How is that being handled?
    Mimi Roeder

  7. My father served as an Evanston alderman for two terms—-when considering the issues of the era he served (1968–1976) I can fully assure you he was busy, very busy—-yet at no time was he ever motivated by financial compensation nor expected any—-the long running tradition for council members clearly stipulated one serves out of civic duty—-albeit he and his colleagues received a whopping $25 per meeting as long as one attended the weekly council meeting—-my father further believed after two terms it was time to move on and let someone else serve, meaning no way one should ever consider being a council member translated into anything even remotely considered as full time employment—-let’s keep in mind Evanston has a city manager and large staff that’s primarily responsible for running the city—-the mayor’s position was and should remain a figurehead position, as in make sure council meeting are run in a common sense orderly manner—>knock off the bloviating, only expend size of government when absolutely necessary, create a balanced budget and skip the topless beach routines…perhaps it’s time to consider a return to 18 alders (two minor compensated representatives per ward) to reduce so called massive work level—-a massive work level that many present and past council members are responsible for creating…the city of Evanston can and should operate very efficiently with a city council comprised of those willing to serve with dignity and motivated by sense of civic duty…my father gave a great deal of time to city serving as an alderman while also having a job to support raising a family of five…city elections see a turnout of approximately 20% eligible voters—-should the city consider one in five residents deciding on who gets high paid elected city jobs?—-I should hope not—-we can do without corrupt, ignorant and bankrupting Chicago style politics…if I’ve learned one valuable lesson of a life lived in Evanston, throwing money at problems only makes them worse…”Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish—too much handling will spoil it”—Lao Tzu

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