Councilors will decide next week whether to choose mayor from among council or accept applications
By Morgan Rothborne for Ashland.news
The Ashland City Council is still working with two empty chairs, but at Tuesday’s special business meeting councilors voted unanimously to set a process in motion to fill the vacancies for the city’s mayor and council Position 3 by the end of the month. The positions were left vacant by the resignations of Mayor Julie Akins, announced Jan. 23 and effective Jan. 27, and Councilor Shaun Moran, announced Jan. 24 and effective immediately.
Councilor Tonya Graham was elected unanimously as council chair at Tuesday’s meeting. In the absence of a mayor, Graham ran the meeting as it turned to its most pressing matter: how to replace Akins and Moran.
“There is very little in the charter to guide us, which would normally be the document to guide you through this,” Doug McGeary, acting city attorney, explained.
The document says the council has 60 days to fill the vacancies, he said, and, in the case of the mayor, the council has the authority to appoint someone who would serve for the remainder of the current term and then either step down or run for election.
“Our job tonight is to set the process in order and set the timeline,” Chair Graham said. “One of the things that’s different in this situation, is that we haven’t appointed a mayor before but we certainly have done this for councilors before.”
Councilors voted unanimously to use the same process used by council to fill a vacant seat in the past. The city will advertise for council Position 3. Councilors will accept applications until Feb. 14, conduct interviews until Feb. 20, then vote on their new colleague during the Feb. 21 or 22 council meeting.
“I would feel more comfortable, personally, appointing a mayor from this body, if someone were willing to serve,” Councilor Bob Kaplan said.
Councilor Gina DuQuenne was eager to elevate Chair Graham to the role.
“I would like recommend that Tonya Graham be our mayor. You are more experienced, you’ve been here longer than anyone else,” she said. Graham was elected in 2018 and sworn in in January 2019.
DuQuenne also recommended Jill Franko for the council position that would be vacated by Graham if she were to be mayor. Franko ran unsuccessfully for council Position 4 in November, now held by Councilor Kaplan.
Graham thanked DuQuenne, but directed the group to focus on choosing the process for replacing the mayor. Councilor Paula Hyatt argued the weighty decision of taking on the responsibility of serving as Ashland’s mayor should take time.
Council again voted unanimously, this time to take the week to reflect and, at their meeting on Feb. 7, discuss again if any currently sitting councilor would be willing to serve as mayor. If no councilor steps forward, or if councilors cannot come to a majority for the appointment, the position will be filled in the same way as the empty council seat.
“I would like to take a moment to thank those who have served, because in having this conversation we cannot forget there were humans behind those roles who were working day-in and day-out for this community,” Hyatt said.
Budget committee appointed
In other council business Tuesday, the members of the citizen’s budget committee were chosen by vote of councilors. Of the 10 applicants for the five open positions on the committee, councilors agreed on Andy Card, Linda Peterson-Adams, Jeff Dahle, Eric Navickas and Mike Gardiner.
“It’s not every community that gets a lot of applicants for their budget committee; we have brave people here in Ashland,” Graham said.
Councilors also unanimously voted to create a full-time position for a city communications officer and directed the city’s transportation commission to consider protected bike lanes and crosswalks for an upcoming street construction project between Ashland Street and Mountain Street on Siskiyou Boulevard (also known as Highway 99), by the Southern Oregon University campus.
Email freelance writer Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org.