Photo by Autumn Micketti
The 2020 election in Ashland resulted in 4 of the 7 city council seats going to new community members. A new mayor and three new city councilors (positions 1, 3, and 5) were elected, in addition to a new park’s commissioner position 1, and a hold over in position 2.
After 12 years of service to the Ashland community, former mayor John Stromberg withdrew his candidacy. The people narrowly chose Julie Akins as their next mayor over Tanya Graham with less than 800 votes deciding the winner out of almost 13,000 ballots cast.
When Julie Akin was asked what inspired her to run for mayor she responded, “When the city council decided to go forward with the city hall bond during the first week of the COVID-19 shutdown, that was it for me. I felt like I had to run.”
The city council seats were all destined to be filled by new community members as none of the three seats up for election had an incumbent vying for the position.
Paula Hyatt won the seat vacated by Dennis Slattery. Hyatt finished with a little over two-thirds of the vote against Andrew Card, for city council position 1.
The race for the position 3 seat was the most contested. Four community members were running for the open seat: Gerardo Padilla, Kelly Marcotulli, Shaun Moran, and Julian Bell. In a very close race, Shaun Moran ended up winning with 40% of the vote, with Julian Bell just behind with 35%.
The final open councilor position 5 went to Gina DuQuenne, over Jessica Kensinger, who recently graduated from the Emerge program. “What initially really blew me away was the support and enthusiasm from the people of Ashland,” she said.
In addition to the city council and mayoral openings, parks commissioner position 1 and 2 were also open. Parks commissioner position 1 went to SOU professor Leslie Eldridge. Parks commissioner position 2 was between incumbent Jim Lewis and Nick David, with Jim Lewis retaining his position.
The parks department plays the role of maintaining Ashland’s parks and its 48 miles of trails. SOU student Maria D’Andrea praised their work and the towns inclination to maintaining a relationship with nature. “I like the fact that the environment is a significant part of living here, which I identify with,” she said.
This year’s elected officials will have an important role to play in the future of the Ashland. A global pandemic, the aftermath of the Almeda fire, and the new city manager position will give the new city council members and mayor several large tasks that need immediate attention.
Andrew Boorman expressed concern for Ashland’s small businesses saying, “It’s sad [to see] so many great places closing, [but] I think the government has the money to help these people out.”
Julie Akin agreed, “We need to see if we’re doing all we can for businesses to survive. Without them, we have fewer jobs and less reasons for tourism which is still among our chief industries.”
The recent Almeda fire, and the decreased rainfall locally and regionally, has brought new conversations and ideas to the table. “We need to be factoring in lack of water in our climate responses. Metal roofs, rain water catchment, incentives to remove grass lawns, soil regeneration, year-round thinning and burning and riparian restoration—all these help us with water and lowering fire danger,” Akins stated.
Another task that the council will have to address, are the housing issues related to the homeless residents of Ashland. Andrew Boorman stated, “We need to help them out more, they’re struggling and should have [help].”
One of the possible solutions to this issue is the collective purchasing of a piece of land on the north side of Ashland to help support homeless residents. Gina DuQuenne explained that they’re, “Working with the county and city to get [the plot] rezoned, so it can legally house the residents.”
Ashland Residents are welcome to attend monthly City Council meetings in order to better understand what decisions are being made for the future of Ashland and play an active role. Learn more about Ashland City Council on their website.