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Film festival director announces departure

The Ashland Independent Film Festival's executive director announced Friday she will step down at the conclusion of the 13th annual event in April.

Anne Ashbey cited personal reasons for her decision to give up the position after just over two years. This April's festival will be her third as executive director.

"She was an exceptional leader," said Pamela Leandro Notch, president of the festival's board.

Leandro Notch said Ashbey, who has a background in marketing and e-commerce, brought her valuable business experience to the festival.

"She really brought a professional business sense," Leandro Notch said. "And she was able to blend that with her board experience."

Ashbey spent five years on the AIFF board before accepting a position as director, and plans to transition back onto the board once her replacement is found.

"I love this organization, and transitioning back to the board is important because I do believe in it wholeheartedly," said Ashbey, who declined to elaborate on her reasons for stepping down.

The board has posted the executive director job description online and formed a search committee to seek a replacement for Ashbey.

Leandro Notch said that the festival will do a thorough search for a replacement, with the hope a candidate would be in place in time for this year's event.

"We want to get the momentum building, and hopefully we can find someone to be there and shadow and share the experience," said Leandro Notch.

The board will consider hiring within the AIFF community, but will pursue all qualified candidates. She said the selection process will be "very structured and very careful."

A job description is available on the AIFF website, www.ashlandfilm.org. Candidates must have three or more years of nonprofit experience, three or more years of management experience and "demonstrated ability to secure public and private grants, major gifts, donations and sponsorships," according to the description. A letter of application and resume should be emailed to aiffedsearch@ashlandfilm.org.

Leandro Notch said that since Ashbey was hired only two years ago, it's likely some of the candidates from the last executive director search may re-emerge.

Staff from Coming Attractions Theatres, which operates the Varsity Theater where much of the festival is held, said they are sad to see Ashbey step down.

"She's done a fantastic job," said Vice President Lee Fuchsmann. "We're sad to see her go, but happy she'll be staying on the board."

Fuchsmann said that her company's transition from previous Executive Director Tom Olbrich to Ashbey went extremely well.

"The continuity was seamless," said Fuchsmann.

Ashbey said she is excited for this year's festival, and hopes to continue to expand the event to wider audiences.

"Our No. 1 initiative is to continue to grow and diversify our audience," said Ashbey.

Ashbey said the festival hopes to bring in more youth and patrons from further outside of the Rogue Valley.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.

Film festival director announces departure