Evans once had a reputation as a rebel. During his early years on the council, he was part of a faction known as the Young Turks, a group that included colleagues Kevin Chavous, Harold Brazil, and Bill Lightfoot. They frequently clashed with Barry and older councilmembers over lowering taxes and reducing government spending.
Today, Evans and Barry have a genuine, if unlikely, friendship. Evans’ favorite Barry story involves the 2008 funeral of Bishop S.C. “Sweet Daddy” Madison of the United House of Prayer for All People, a prominent African-American congregation located in Ward 2.
“Marion said, ‘Can I catch a ride with you?’ and I said ‘Sure, yeah, that’s no problem,’” Evans says. “The service is at twelve o’clock, and so I go over at 11:30 and he goes ‘Go away. What are you doing here? Eleven-thirty? Come back,’ and I said ‘OK, I’ll come back.’ So it’s quarter to twelve and I go over, my hands are starting to sweat, and I said, ‘Ready to go?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no no.’ It’s ten to twelve, five to twelve, the service starts at twelve o’clock. So I go over and he looks at me says ‘Jack, I know how to do black churches.”
The pair arrived 15 minutes late. When they walked in, there was an ovation as the pair took their front-pew seats. Barry turned to Evans and said, “I told you so.”
It’s not just punctuality. Among colleagues, he’s famous for balancing his checkbook on the council dais. “If you ask Jack how much was his water bill in 1992 in December, he can tell you,” says Councilmember David Catania. Greenan says that many years ago Evans was in a fender-bender while out of town and asked her to get an insurance file from his apartment. When she opened Evans’ personal file cabinet, there was a file with her name on it. “It freaked me out,” she says. Inside turned out to be nothing but generic birthday cards she’d given Evans in past years. “There was no reason to save anything like that.”
When I first approached Evans with my plans to write a cover story about him, he disappeared for a few moments before showing up with a yellowing 1991 issue of Washington City Paper, the last time the paper put an Evans profile on the cover. “Who else can pull shit like that?” Evans asked. “That’s what you ought to write.”
“I think the highlight of his day is going to the carwash,” says WTOP political analyst Mark Plotkin, who is also one of Evans’ closest friends.
Evans’ OCD tendencies, in fact, might provide a thesis as to how he can be so comfortable with money-and-politics chumminess in his own career, but so outraged about the D.C. Council’s current state: The downright sloppy way his colleagues have lately been accused of misusing their positions would offend any neat freak’s sense of order.
Evans doesn’t have that easy-going nature that allows politicians like Bill Clinton (who once jogged with Evans and shows up 12 times on Evans’ vanity wall) to connect with people. When meeting strangers, he seems aloof and distracted. He walks with shoulders hunched forward; more than one person compared his physical appearance to Montgomery Burns, the nuclear power plant owner from The Simpsons.
But the lack of raw political charisma hasn’t deterred Evans from dreaming about moving up.
In 1998, Evans tried to succeed Barry as mayor. He raised more than $1 million. But Williams took all of the rich, white voters Evans would have needed, leaving him with just 10 percent of the overall vote.
Evans planned another run in 2005, but pulled the plug shortly after commissioning a private poll. “The results were difficult for Jack to see,” says Chuck Thies, a political consultant who co-chaired the exploratory committee but says he never saw the unpublished poll’s actual numbers. Evans then said he was “definitely” going to run for council chairman. But he changed his mind on that race, too, citing family reasons. (His first wife died of cancer in 2003; at the time, Evans was a single father raising triplets. He remarried last year.)
At a recent roast of Evans at the Four Seasons, the most trenchant line in a night of soft zingers came courtesy of NBC4’s Tom Sherwood, who gave Evans a T-shirt that read “I’m kind of a big deal.” Said Sherwood: “You’ve almost kind of made it, Mr. Evans. You’ve almost kind of made it.”
Evans made noise about running for chairman last year. Friends and colleagues say there’s no doubt he would still make a citywide run if the right opportunity—say, a federal indictment against an incumbent—presented itself.
But at present, Evans repeats what all good politicians say: He’s happy as the Ward 2 councilmember and is focused only on the election ahead of him. Of course, most good politicians dreaming of a citywide race would also avoid conspicuously dissing fellow pols, but that’s another story.