When Aldeman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked residents this week what qualities they want to see in a new Evanston city manager, three themes seemed to dominate the responses — equity, budget savvy and understanding the community.

At the Thursday evening virtual meeting, Lisa Levine said she wants a manager who will apply “a racial equity lens” to decision-making, particularly around city spending. The budget, she said “is a moral document.”

Darlene Cannon explained her understanding of how to apply an equity lens as focusing on the impact of budget decisions “on black and brown people and low income people in the community.”

Kelly Terrell said she wants to see a new manager who is “embedded and invested in Evanston” and who’s involved in and understands the issues here.

Krissie Harris suggested the new manager should come from “an area similar to ours,” like Ann Arbor, Michigan, or perhaps another college town with a diverse community.

Linta Carter suggested finding someone with a certification in conflict resolution.

Priscilla Giles said it would be great to find someone from Evanston or who was from “a community like Evanston.”

Ray Friedman said he’s like to see someone with new ideas about the budget — who could “expand the tax base without raising property taxes.”

Braithwaite said, after listening to the residents comments for more than an hour, that he saw the key attributes for a new city manager as someone who:

  • Can embody the values of Evanstion,
  • Has managed a budget of at least $100 million,
  • Has racial equity training and has led a city that is tracking metrics for its racial equity program, 
  • Has worked in a college town like Evanston that’s close to a big city and has diversity similar to ours.

The City Council’s Rules Committee is scheduled to meet with its consulting firm for the manager search, GovHR, Monday night to discuss plans for carrying out the search despite the complications imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In a normal situation,” Braithwaite said, each finalist candidate typically would be interviewed face-to-face by several groups of people, ranging from city department heads to community leaders.

“It’s going to be a challenge to do that in a veritual setting,” the alderman said, adding that he’ll be interested to hear from GovHR how they plan to respond to the challenge of conducting the search under these unusual conditions.

The search timeline outlined by GovHR in the packet for Monday’s 5 p.m. meeting calls for beginning with a survey of residents the week of June 22 and conducting interviews with finalists by mid-September.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Sounds like they want Ms.
    Sounds like they want Ms. Storlie to take a few classes and she’d be ideal…

    Seriously, she checks off all those boxes even without taking equity classes or a conflict resolution certificate.

    1. Agreed!

      Yes, that is exactly right, Ms. Storlie hits all the boxes they just requested. In my memories of working at the City of Evanston, she stands out as the most rational, sensible person there. She works strategically with no nonsense to accomplish goals. She has lived in Evanston for several years now and has an intimate understanding of what the community needs are, often before the community realizes their own needs. She is budget savvy, having been apart of the process within the City Manager’s office for several years now. Check, Check, Check. 

      She is able to recognize talent within employees and works with those people to well position both City Hall and the community. There is a reason Council felt comfortable moving forward with Erika. She isn’t loud and bombastic as some are, but measured, calm, and strategic. She isn’t self serving as some others from City Hall have been, this isn’t a stepping stone onto the next bigger job, not a resume builder. Wally never intended to stay, many City Managers won’t. She has deep roots in the Evanston community, her kids go to local elementary schools. She’s a working mom of four who has proven herself over time in this community and has given so much to Evanston. 

      While yes Erika worked with Wally, she was far from someone that just blindly followed his whims. She often provided the logical, rational voice of reason in the room of multiple large personalities battling out their own interests and special projects.She would be the one finding the middle, common ground and sensible ways to move forward, the global thinker in a group of often childish decision makers (most whom have since left the City). She remains approachable to all employees and residents, unlike many of the others that have held fourth floor positions. 

      You should all consider yourselves fortunate to have Ms. Storlie willing to leading the way, as I consider myself fortunate to have worked with her.

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