June 21, 2024

Ashland City Council appoints deputy city manager to serve as interim city manager

Members of the Ashland City Council and, at far right, interim City Manager Sabrina Cotta, listen to public comment on Tuesday evening. RVTV video
January 17, 2024

Process for selecting new city manager not yet determined

By Morgan Rothborne,

The Ashland City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to appoint Deputy City Manager Sabrina Cotta as interim city manager. 

“I so appreciate you stepping forward in the way you have,” said Councilor Eric Hansen. 

Mayor Tonya Graham said the city is getting “a bit of a twofer” and expressed her gratitude to Cotta for serving simultaneously as deputy and pro tem city manager. 

The office of city manager will formerly be vacant Jan. 31 — Joe Lessard stepped down Oct. 27, but remains on paid administrative leave through the end of the month — and City Council is required by the Ashland City Charter to appoint a pro tem city manager to fill the vacancy, according to meeting materials. 

Cotta will formally assume the position from Feb. 1, and her role will “terminate upon the hiring of a permanent City Manager, unless otherwise extended by mutual agreement of the parties,” according to a contract included with meeting materials. 

Cotta will be at the city’s “step 4” pay rate for the city manager and receive benefits such as administrative leave, vacation accrual, support for professional development and a $400 vehicle allowance. As of August 2022, the most recent information readily available in city records, step 4 was more than $14,300 per month, or $171,651 per year. 

Council discussed but did not come to a decision for how the city will seek candidates for a permanent city manager position. Director of Human Resources Molly Taylor stated that engaging a recruitment firm would give the city a larger pool of applicants at a cost of between $20,000 and $50,000. The funds have been budgeted and are available, she said. 

The City Council directed the city’s HR department to explore the cost and plausibility of engaging the Rogue Valley Council of Governments to seek candidates. 

In other council business Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a request from Ashland Fiber Network staff for a $600,000 contract with vendor Calix for a three-year pilot project to expand and improve security for the AFN. The contract will fund the purchase of equipment such as routers and management services. 

Council voted unanimously on the second reading for a curfew on all Ashland Parks and Recreation properties and trials from midnight to 5 a.m. and a grant funded contract to update the 2004 wildfire community protection plan

Council also voted unanimously to approve a construction contract with Hoag Roofing to repair the roof of Briscoe School for a total cost of $560,089 to be funded through a grant from the state of Oregon. 

The public comment period lasted nearly an hour due to the number of residents signed up to speak. Numerous residents asked the council to issue a statement of support for a ceasefire in Gaza. Multiple residents spoke about homelessness issues, including opposition to the city’s proposal to lower the temperature threshold at the severe weather shelter and expressed concern about recent injuries on the city’s “Dusk-to-Dawn” sleeping area and the closure of Pioneer Hall. 

To view RVTV video of Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting, click here.

Email reporter Morgan Rothborne at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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