Action leaves a second council seat open; applications open for both, appointment expected late this month
By Morgan Rothborne, Rogue Valley Tribune
Ashland has a new mayor.
The Ashland City Council unanimously elected council Chair Tonya Graham as mayor Tuesday night to succeed Julie Akins, who resigned effective Jan. 27.
Councilor Gina DuQuenne nominated Graham, stating that it was a matter of succession for Graham to ascend to the position.
“Because our Mayor Akins did step down, and the city of Ashland is in much need of a mayor, Graham has been on council, is experienced, and she’s the next in succession — and I believe in succession,” DuQuenne said.
“It is your leadership in this body that is exemplary, and I believe that you will make a great mayor,” Councilor Eric Hansen said in support of the nomination.
Councilor Bob Kaplan thanked Graham as well, noting she was giving up the four-year post she had recently secured in the November election. Graham will serve the remainder of Akins four-year term, which expires at the end of 2024. As councilor, she would have remained in office through 2026.
After the meeting, Graham smiled and struggled for words to describe her new position.
“I’m honored that my councilors asked me to step forward into the position,” she said.
Graham said that over her three decades of living in Ashland, she has watched the city evolve, but now she believes big and thoughtful changes will be her focus.
“We are right at the cusp of some very large changes. We are reimagining ourselves on some level, coming out of the pandemic, dealing with the changes to our economy and our economic anchors,” she said.
Graham described her vision for Ashland as a good partner to other institutions and organizations to help the city be pragmatic in meeting its goals on climate, affordable housing, economic development and social equity.
“That’s really my goal, is to help the city be an exceptional partner so we can all move toward this new redesigned future together,” she said.
Hansen was happy to affirm his support for the new mayor.
“I’m very excited. I voted for Mayor Graham as a citizen (in the 2020 election). I appreciate that she is already in a leadership position, and she is pulling threads through the community and weaving this tapestry of leadership that I think is beautiful,” he said.
Akins announced her resignation Jan. 23 with a brief letter stating that while she was proud of her work on initiatives for housing and equity, “for me, it’s time.”
The Ashland city charter gives the City Council the power to elect a new mayor but stipulates the mayor’s seat must be filled within 60 days.
Councilors voted unanimously Jan. 31 to spend a week in reflection in the hopes one of their number would be willing to step into the mayor’s seat. Tuesday night, Graham said she was ready to accept the nomination of her colleagues.
Graham’s elevation to mayor leaves council seat No. 2 open. Councilors voted unanimously to advertise the seat and accept applications for the post. Council has a second vacant seat, as well, left empty by Sean Moran’s resignation effective Jan. 24.
Councilors and Graham are expected to review applicants for the new council seats and appoint their new colleagues during special business meetings Feb. 21 or 22.
Email Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first appeared in Rogue Valley Tribune.