Three women have been named by the City Council as finalists to be Evanston’s new city manager.

They are Aretha Ferrell-Benavides, city manager of Petersburg, Virginia; Marie Peoples, deputy manager of Coconino County, Arizona, and Erika Storlie, Evanston’s interim city manager.

The three are scheduled to participate in a community forum at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Residents are being asked to register in advance to participate in the forum.

Aretha Ferrell-Benavides

Ferrell-Benavides has been city manager of Petersburg, since July 2017.

Petersburg is a town of 33,000 people 24 miles south of Richmond that’s home to Virginia State University.

A year after starting work in Petersburg, Ferrell-Benavides told Richmond TV station WWBT that she planned to stay in the position for at least five years.

Soon after that she ended up calling police to city hall as a dispute flared over charges the city treasurer was exceeding his authority.

And, by October 2019, she was named a finalist for a city manager job in Killeen, Texas.

It would have been a return to Texas for Ferrell-Benavides, who’d been city manager of Glenn Heights, Texas, a town of 11,000 residents, from 2015 to 2017, after being promoted from deputy city manager there.

The mayor of Petersburg, Samuel Parham said he was “very thrilled” Ferrell-Benavides was in the running for the job in the Killeen, a town of about 127,000 people.

He said she’d done a great job in Petersburg helping turn around the city’s fiscal house that was on the verge of collapse when she arrived. “They are noticing the good work she is doing here,” the mayor said.

But budget issues have continued to be a concern in Petersburg, with the state last spring ordering the city to restore water service to residents who’d been cut off for non-payment of bills, and firefighters upset after the city ordered one of its four fire stations closed.

And last spring the city manager called in the FBI to investigate after someone was able to share lewd video during a virtual City Council meeting.

Before Glenn Heights, Ferrell-Benavides served for nearly seven years in a variety of roles with the Washington, D.C., municipal government, after serving brief stints as an assistant county administrator in Los Alamos County, New Mexico and as assistant to the city manager of Sunnyvale, California.

On her Linkedin page, Ferrell-Benavides says she received a bachelors degree from Southern University at Baton Rouge in political science and government in 1992 and a master’s degree in public administration and international development from Howard University in 1997.

Maria Peoples

Peoples has worked for Coconino County, Arizona, since 2013 as chief health officer and was named to the additional role of deputy county manager in November 2018, where she’s responsible for oversight of departments that deal with criminal justice and human services.

She’s also been incident commander for the county’s COVID-19 response.

The county in north-central Arizona has a population of 143,000 and Flagstaff is its county seat.

She’s also been an elected member of the Coconino County Community College board since 2015.

Her career began as a substance abuse therapist within Missouri’s correctional system and she held several health-related positions with public and private agencies in Missouri.

On her Linkedin page, Peoples says she holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College in Jefferson City, Missouri, a master’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Lincoln University of Missouri and master’s and PhD degrees in public health from Walden University, a for-profit online school based in Minneapolis.

She also is an associate faculty member for the online University of Phoenix.

Erika Storlie

The City Council named Storlie Evanston’s interim city manager in September 2019 after long-time City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz announced he was leaving for a new position in Washington state.

Bobkiewicz had named Storlie assistant city manager in January 2018. She had initially started at the city in 2004 as its web communications coordinator, before moving up through a variety of positions in the city manager’s office.

As assistant city manager she was the number two official in city administration and also served as administrative services director, overseeing human resources, information technology, facility maintenance, fleet services and parking operations for the City.

She also headed the city’s efforts to build the new Robert Crown Community Center project after the departure of the previous assistant city manager, Marty Lyons.

In naming her assistant city manager, Bobkiewicz said, “She brings a unique combination of thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and tenacity to every assignment.”

Last June, after the search for Bobkiewicz’s replacement had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Steve Hagerty proposed that aldermen call off the search and name Storlie the new manager.

But after some residents objected to that move, the City Council voted to move ahead with the nationwide search for a replacement for Bobkiewicz.

On her Linkedin page Storlie lists a bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public administration from Kent State University.

Storlie, her wife Kristi, and their four children live in Evanston.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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