Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss says the city is falling behind on getting things done because it lacks a permanent city manager.
City Council is on its third search in less than a year for a new top administrator. Finalists in the other two searches either took a job elsewhere or backed out.
Biss told a virtual town hall forum Tuesday night that “a lot of balls are being dropped because we don’t have enough people” to do all the work.
Besides having yet another interim city manager, Evanston also has an interim poice chief along with other unfilled slots.
“The number of vacancies in key positions is why I feel such urgency” in filling the manager’s job, Biss said.
The manager, as the city’s chief executive officer, is responsible for hiring other administrators, as well as supervising day-to-day city operations.
Biss said he is optimistic about finding a top quality city manager, although he conceded that “all of the instability” seen in Evanston’s ranks recently “is hurting us.”
Biss also indicated that, unlike with previous searches, there is at least a chance that a single finalist will be presented to the community for a Q and A, as opposed to a couple of contenders taking public questions.
The mayor said the community will have input either way, with a chance to “kick the tires” before Council makes a final vote.
“We have made a strong committment that we will not hire somebody without submitting them to the community and without getting feedback first,” the mayor explained.
However, Biss said the public nature of a city manager search can scare off potential candidates, who do not want their current employers to know they are looking elsewhere.
Such a public process has definitely “narrowed the applicant pool,” Biss said, hence the possibility of just presenting one finalist to the public.
“We have to be realistic and move forward aggressively and quickly once we find the right person,” the mayor added.
Biss said he was optimistic that will happen relatively soon, however, he offered no timetable.
He also said once the hiring process is concluded and a new manager is in place, the key will be “outcomes, outcomes, outcomes,” on what the manager, mayor, and council will be able to accomplish.
“One year from now,” Biss noted, “we’ll see a government that’s better than it is today.”