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Ashland zeroes in on next finance director

The city of Ashland has entered what may be the final stage of the search for its next finance director after City Council members met earlier this week with a woman being touted as the city’s top choice.

Four of six council members met with the finalist by the end of the day Tuesday, according to Ashland Human Resources Manager Tina Gray, as the candidate concluded a whirlwind tour of Ashland that began Monday and was slated to end with her flying back home Wednesday morning.

Gray said during the Aug. 4 City Council meeting that a conditional offer had been sent to the candidate as the city pushed forward with background checks and the council’s approval. Tuesday afternoon, Gray said the meetings had gone well.

“Everything at this point looks very good,” she said, adding that the city is keeping the identity of the finalist under wraps until she takes the job. The hope, Gray added, is that will happen by the end of the week.

The city posted the job opening May 7 on the League of Oregon Cities website, setting an application deadline of June 6.

The salary range listed for the job was $103,312 to $138,613, depending on experience and qualifications. Gray said the finalist has “extensive” experience, so the salary the city has offered is “higher in the salary range.”

According to Mayor John Stromberg, two of the city’s three finalists were women, though its top choice appears to be the clear front-runner after having separated herself during a final-three semifinal round of interviews.

Interim City Administrator Adam Hanks said that about 30 candidates applied for the position, and 17 remained after the initial round of cuts. A questionnaire followed by another vetting process that involved city staffers reduced the pool to seven.

“Then we went through another round,” Hanks said during last week’s council meeting. “So we’ve had several different rounds with different people, with different angles looking at different components of the qualifications and skills. So we feel solid here. We just have this last step that we wanted to ensure that we have the council involved in it.”

The finalist also wanted to visit the town, and flew into Medford Monday.

“She wanted to have an opportunity to come to Ashland and meet with council members, poke around a little, make sure she could find housing, that sort of thing,” Gray said.

Stromberg sang the candidate’s praises during last week’s council meeting while explaining why she was invited to meet the councilors.

“It was interesting because after the two panels finished (interviewing her), both panels said you’ve got to hire this person right away before somebody else hires her,” Stromberg said. “We will send you her resume, and when you look at her resume you’ll begin to get a sense of the depth of experience, the depth of capabilities that this person has, and it looks like she could be a good fit.”

Stromberg went on to explain that extending a conditional offer buys the city time for further background checking and should clear up whether the city is “in the right ballpark in terms of the package of compensation and the expectations for that.”

The process is being somewhat compressed, he added, but necessarily so.

“If we can complete this hiring process, if the background checks pan out, if the council confirms the appointment, then we can bring this person on very close to the start of the internal beginnings of the budget process that will culminate on June 30 of next year,” Stromberg said. “At least we will have that person tracking and presenting the budget with the able support of (Accounting Manager) Cindy (Hanks) and (interim Finance Director) Bryn (Morrison).

“We’re going to have somebody who was brought in in the right sequence, and that’s partly why we moved ahead the way we did.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.