More than 160 Evanston residents watched Sunday afternoon as the two finalists to become the new city manager answered questions online about how they would lead the city.

There was no interaction between the two — Michael Jasso and Daniel Ramos — who had separate, nearly hour long sessions to respond to questions posed by a representative of the consulting firm hired by the city to conduct the manager search.

Both men said their ancestors are from Mexico.

Jasso, who’s in his mid 50s, appeared with a photo of the Sacramento, California, City Hall Council Chambers as his Zoom backdrop.

He was animated in his answers and appeared relatively comfortable under the questioning.

Michael Jasso.

Jasso grew up in the Chicago area and said he’d considered attending Northwestern University before deciding to get his undergraduate degree at Princeton University instead.

He said that during a decade and a half working in government jobs for the City of Chicago and Cook County he had spent a lot of time in Evanston and that his brother was married here at the Orrington Hotel.

Although Evanston, with 78,100 residents, is far smaller than the Sacramento, with a population of over 500,000, where he’s now one of four assistant city managers, Jasso said he appreciated that Evanston “is a real city with real issues.”

And it’s the right size to pilot a course for how other cities can respond to those issues, he added.

“Under the right leadership, Evanston can set a course that would be a model,” not just for Illinois, but for the nation, Jasso said.

In response to a question about his experience working with diverse communities, Jasso noted that a Harvard University study last year ranked Sacramento as the most diverse city in the U.S.

But he added that by itself, diversity doesn’t mean equity, nor does it solve all the problems.

Ramos, who’s in his early 30s, seemed more tense as he responded to questions.

Daniel Ramos.

He said he’d grown up in Los Angeles and that in a decade working for the city government of Baltimore, Maryland, population 609,000, he’d risen from an intern to deputy chief administrative officer.

Asked about his skills working with diverse communities, Ramos said that while he hadn’t grown up in Baltimore, “I came, I learned and made the relationships necessary to get things done” in the city that is 60% Black and has a growing Latino community.

Ramos said that while he has not have direct oversight of police functions in Baltimore, he has worked on programs designed to reduce youth violence by providing mental health resources troubled youth need to pivot their lives.

He said he believes Evanston has made a strong start with its Reimagining Public Safety committee to address those issues.

A recording of the interviews is scheduled to be available on the city’s YouTube channel on Monday.

The candidates are to be in Evanston for interviews with City Council members and panels of city staff, business and nonprofit stakeholders and community residents on Thursday and Friday.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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