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Julie Akins elected next mayor of Ashland

Julie Akins defeated opponent Tonya Graham by roughly 600 votes in a tight race for Ashland mayor, based on election results as of press time Tuesday.

Akins said she feels humbled, responsible and grateful for the outcome.

Celebrating her narrow victory, Akins said she represents all those who voted for her and who voted for her opponent — the next task is to bring people together for the betterment of the community as a whole.

At the national level, voters are in for a “tough ride” over the coming days, and Ashlanders who hoped for more compassionate and inclusive national leadership may face disappointment, she said.

Still, the city of Ashland can “do what it does best” and maintain a character of inclusivity and equity, with the actions to back it up, Akins said. Affordability, livability and sustainability top her list of goals for the city, along with a focus on environment and wildfire danger.

Akins said she looks forward to collaborating with Graham as they finish the year serving on City Council and will readily welcome her input going forward.

“My door is open; my heart is warm,” Akins said.

Graham wrapped up a campaign season with $3,821 in expenditures — $54 under the limit set by a voluntary pledge signed June 17 — and a remaining balance of $3,294 in unspent cash contributions, according to ORESTAR. Akins spent $11,495 on her campaign, with just under $4,000 left in cash Tuesday.

Graham will serve the remaining two years of her council term and focus on “helping Ashland build economic, social and climate resilience,” she said.

Graham said she views a candidacy as an offer of service. The community then decides whose offer to accept and what leadership they wish to take them forward. In the coming days, elected officials all have a role to play in helping their communities get through challenging and anxious times, she said, and she intends to fulfill that duty as a councilor.

Looking back on her campaign, Graham said despite the pandemic altering how candidates reached voters this year, her team adjusted well by replacing traditional canvassing with a “Conversations in the Park” series, 45 letters to the editor, high traffic on the campaign website and the receipt of more than 100 endorsements from community leaders and groups. Graham said she doesn’t see anything that could have been done better.

“We put a vision for the future of Ashland in front of our community. That’s what campaigns are supposed to do, and we did it,” Graham said.

The “unrelenting” stress and strain on the public over recent months — brought by the coronavirus pandemic, Almeda fire and the most important national election of many lifetimes — will spur a wide range of reactions based on individual life experiences, she said.

“Our job moving forward, no matter how things turn out in the elections at all levels, is to understand that much of the intensity we are experiencing locally has its origin elsewhere,” Graham said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Julie Akins