By Bob Seidenberg
Evanston City Council members, whose jobs are part time under the city’s Council/Manager form of government, have – for better or worse – pretty much handled the responsibilities of the office on their own.
That will change, though, after the Council approved an 11th hour budget amendment Dec. 12, contracting with a company to provide alderpersons with virtual executive assistant support.
Council member Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, proposed the amendment, allocating $68,042 to Worxbee, an Executive Assistant solutions company.
Lest Council members should view the amendment as a “late-game discussion” item, Burn said the Dec. 12 proposal began as a referral he made several months before, prior to any formal budget discussions.
Burns said he recommended Worxbee after he had looked around at some of the other companies that offered virtual executive assistant solutions, many of them sprouting up during Covid.
He said Worxbee has been around the longest. In addition, he said, the company [which noted offices in Greenville, S. Car. on its website] also has virtual assistants that are located in the U.S., “which I thought was important,” as well as a reasonable pricing structure.
He proposed the city enter a short-term commitment with the company, taking into account some of the expenses the city is taking on with higher pension payments and increased salaries.
Earlier in the evening, during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting, a Worxbee representative, participating online, popped up amid other speakers talk about some of the company’s attributes.
Dylan Smith, the Business Development Manager for Worxbee Executive Assistant Solutions, said the company was founded in 2013 by Kenzie Biggins, its CEO, and is a minority- and women- business enterprise company.
“We focus on providing exceptional virtual administrative solutions for organizations and leaders throughout the United States,” he said.
Smith said the company’s executive assistants come pre-vetted and interviewed and with an average of ten years of experience. They work remotely and on an as-needed basis and are active only when they are actually providing support.
He said through the company’s unique administrative roadmap system, the company has already identified a few key areas that would help Council members in their jobs.
Those areas include creating ward newsletters, which would allow for both consistent and regular community updates. Calendar support, he said, would be another area.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, Council member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, seconded Burns motion to contract with Worxbee and spoke in support.
“I think many of us understand the need for assistance, particularly in a ward that would have a higher need,” he said.
“The Fifth Ward, the Eighth Ward have the largest minority population, the highest rate of poverty in the city,” he pointed out. “So I think this is desperately needed for all of us to be better communicating with residents and being able to expand our ability to do this work.”
In further discussion, Council member Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, asked whether there had been any process used to identify a firm to provide the executive assistant service.
Burns said his search did not show a lot of companies that performed the service and said many that did were new and popped up since Covid.
He said Worxbee’s experience as well as a reasonable pricing structure figured in their selection.
Council members voted 7-1 in favor of the $68,042 amendment with Kelly casting the lone no vote.