Evanston city manager finalists Poche, Fournier hold virtual town hall

City manager candidates Snapper Poche and John Fournier spoke about their ideas for Evanston in a Tuesday virtual town hall moderated by Mayor Daniel Biss.

Candidates answered questions submitted by residents, emphasizing their previous experiences and commitments to improving Evanston. Most questions concerned racial equity issues, action against climate change, small business pandemic recovery and budgeting efficiency.

“What’s so intriguing about Evanston is your take on these big critical, structural issues that I think more communities ought to be grappling with: issues around racial equity, reparations, structural racism, climate change,” Poche said.

Poche currently serves as the program director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. He previously worked as program director at the Innovation Field Lab New York, another Harvard University program, and as the director of code enforcement for New Orleans.

Fournier, the assistant city administrator of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said he is excited to bring his passion for public service to Evanston.

“I have known my whole life that I wanted a career in public service,” Fournier said. “Opportunity exists in Evanston for us to do something really special together. It really excites me, and I hope that I get the opportunity to do it.”

Fournier has spent four years working for Ann Arbor’s government and has previously worked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as deputy chief of staff to the mayor.

Throughout the town hall, Fournier discussed issues of equity, staff management and climate action.

Poche drew on his experience working for the City of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to repair housing and rehabilitate the city’s commercial district. He emphasized how this experience can apply to Evanston’s strategic focus on small businesses and affordable housing.

Poche said he takes a “values-based approach” to many issues, highlighting the need for thoughtful strategies derived from resident input, especially when it comes to the city budget.

“Oftentimes, cities spend a lot of time focusing on budget and numbers, and we do not do enough about talking about what the investment of these budget dollars actually means,” he said. “We need to shift the discussion from dollars to values ​​and invest in those values.

Fournier said he prioritizes using an “equity lens” to guide city development policies, informed by his work as Ann Arbor’s interim director of human resources.

He also listed specific recommendations to improve the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. His proposals included solarizing city facilities and affordable housing units with federal dollars, lobbying state legislators and prioritizing pedestrian infrastructure.

“I was also excited to read (CARP) because it is nearly identical to the climate action plan that the City of Ann Arbor has,” Fournier said. “I’ve worked really closely with our staff on helping to implement that plan.”

The city has sought to fill the city manager role since October 2021, when former City Manager Erika Storlie stepped down amid claims of sexual assault on lakefront beaches. Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski will step down when the new manager is selected.

The city’s initial attempt at filling the city manager role was derailed when finalist Daniel Ramos dropped out of the race to take a different job. After spending $25,000 on the first search firm, Evanston spent $70,000 contracting search firm Stanton Chase. City government announced the final candidates Friday.

According to a city report, City Council unanimously selected Poche and Fournier as the two City Manager finalists after narrowing down the initial 75 candidates presented by recruitment firm Stanton Chase.

Poche and Fournier will be in Evanston for in-person interviews at the end of the week, and City Council will begin deliberations Monday, Biss said. On April 14, Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) estimated the city manager would be chosen by the end of May.

Residents who attended the town hall can submit feedback using this survey.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lilylcarey

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