After a months-long search that cost Evanston more than $95,000, City Council voted unanimously in August to appoint Luke Stowe as City Manager.
Stowe, who previously served as Evanston’s chief information officer and acting deputy city manager, will develop the city’s annual budget and manage government operations, among other responsibilities.
The Daily sat down with Stowe to discuss his tenure goals.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
The Daily: Evanston has scoured dozens of potential candidates since 2020 to fulfill the role of city manager. What are your short and long term goals in the role?
Storage : When I first took office, there was a lot of instability at the leadership level, not only in the city manager’s office but also within the police department. It was a big part of my first few months as a permanent city manager, providing some stabilization.
In the shorter term, I intentionally tried to reach out to community groups and some critics of city operations to try to learn more about their perspective on certain issues. I have also tried to find common ground and have a professional and open working relationship with these groups, so that I can hopefully better calibrate and resolve some of the issues or concerns they have . In the longer term, I might like to reassess, reinvent the budget process. I think there is a lot of room for improvement.
The Daily: Considering the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants With the lack of transparency in the search process for a city manager, how do you plan to prioritize transparency as a city manager?
Storage : I spoke with the mayor, council and staff about the whole notion of this “open by default” philosophy. I came (to this position) through technology and open data, and so those are some of the things I’ve worked on in my career, before we even talked about open government transparency. It was an important part of my previous career and I want to continue doing it in the future.
The Daily: One of the biggest projects the city has undertaken in recent years is its repairs program. How will you ensure the city continues to make progress in distributing reparations?
Storage : We have done innovative and leading work at the national level. How to continue on this momentum? I want to make sure that all staff feel part of this process going forward, and that it’s not just a small group of staff working, collaborating, contributing. We have about 135 people on a waiting list — how can we speed up this process?
The Daily: Many city officials, including Mayor Daniel Biss, have expressed concerns on the proposed budget for 2023, in particular regarding an increase of $42.1 million over last year. What do you think of the proposed budget and what do you hope to see prioritized?
Storage : Part of that $42 million increase is a once-in-a-100-year project with the water intake, which is a $45 million project. This year we presented a fuller menu of selections (in which the council must invest), knowing that the council would not approve the full package and also knowing that the staff would not even be able to execute all these projects. But we wanted to allow the Board to have more of a say this year in prioritizing and choosing which projects to pursue.
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