Eleanor Revelle.

At a lightly attended 7th Ward virtual meeting Thursday evening, Alderman Eleanor Revelle got somewhat conflicting guidance from residents who spoke up about what a new city manager should focus on.

Anita Gewurz said the city’s finances have never been worse. “It seems impossible to keep promising grants” and other means of support to groups “without making some prudent but major cutbacks,” Gewurz said, indicating she wants a new manager who “will know how to deal with the problem head on.”

Toby Sachs.

But Toby Sachs, who’s vice-chair of the city’s Arts Council, said he wants a new manager “who really values the arts” and would expand the city’s support for arts organizations in town.

Sachs suggested the arts are an economic engine that would pay back the investment.

Deborah Hirshfield said she supports having the city make reparations payments to the Black community. She also argued for more spending on affordable housing and insisted that “the proliferation of luxury condos absolutely has to stop.”

In fact, hardly any new condominiums — luxury or otherwise — have been built in Evanston since the housing market collapse more than a decade ago. And new rental developments that have been built have either included affordable units on site or paid fees that have funded most of the city’s affordable housing efforts.

Mike O’Connor suggested the new manager needs to have experience in government. “It’s vastly different from corporate life or academia,” O’Connor said.

“This is such an impossible job to do extraordinarily well,” he added, so the city’s choice “has got to be somebody who’s come up through the ranks.”

Heidi Voorhees.

Heidi Voorhees, the former Wilmette village manager who heads the GovHR USA consulting firm hired by the city to run the search for a new manager, said she doubted that the Evanston manager’s job would be a good fit as someone’s first job in government.

In other searches, she said, “We have had candidates who’ve gone back and forth” between government and the private or not-for-profit sectors. Someone with that background could be a possibility, she added, “but it would be really difficult to make Evanston a first job in government.”

Two city-wide virtual meetings about the manager search are planned over the next two weeks — on Tuesday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 7, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. each day. You can register to participate online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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