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Mayor to seek council approval on interim city manager candidate

Ashland's historic City Hall. File photo

ASHLAND — Mayor Julie Akins will seek City Council approval on her appointment for the interim City Manager position at the July 20 council business meeting.

On Wednesday, Akins requested support for her appointment of Gary Milliman in an email to community members Nancy Boyer, George Kramer, Dean Silver, David Runkel, Toni Dockter, Susan Hall, Susan Wilson and Susanne Severeid.

In the email obtained by the Ashland Tidings, Akins said Milliman has met with each councilor, city staff, and some community members and regional leaders. Milliman is expected to attend the Tuesday council meeting, which is in person at 6 p.m. at 1175 E. Main St.

“Please put the word out. I need to be careful of blowback here or I would,” Akins wrote. “The packet comes out [Thursday].”

According to his professional website, Milliman’s experience includes 40 years in city management and public affairs, economic development and crisis management. He served as city manager most recently in Brookings from 2007-18, but his resume includes work in the California communities of Bell Gardens, Cotati, Fort Bragg and South Gate.

In the early 2000s, Milliman served as the president and CEO of the California Western Railroad and as Southern California Director for the League of California Cities.

Since 2013, Milliman has served as municipal court judge for Brookings, Powers, Port Orford and Lakeside. He is a senior fellow at the Portland State University Center for Public Service and senior adviser to the Oregon City/County Management Association.

Milliman holds a master’s degree of public administration with a certificate in disaster preparedness administration and was honored by the International City/County Management Association, League of Oregon Cities, League of California Cities and California Legislature for career excellence, according to his resume.

Akins said Milliman contacted the city after hearing of Ashland’s imminent need for an interim city manager, with City Manager pro tem Adam Hanks leaving Aug. 6.

“Through referral and direct contact, we had two qualified candidates with city manager experience who could be able to operate day one in achieving the essential functions and primary goals. Of those, Gary emerged as the stronger choice,” Akins said in an attachment to the email dated Wednesday. “He has the education and years of experience along with a collaborative background that make him a strong candidate for Ashland right now.”

References described Milliman as “even-tempered, a calming influence, knowledgeable and highly skilled with a passion for challenge,” she said.

The Brookings Emergency Operations Center is named for Milliman, after his service during the Chetco Bar fire of 2017, according to the Curry County Coastal Pilot.

If approved by the City Council, Milliman would start work Aug. 1 to overlap with Hanks’ final week. Milliman would also assist with the search for permanent city manager candidates.

Councilors Stefani Seffinger and Paula Hyatt met Monday with Milliman.

Seffinger said her impression was Milliman has substantial experience in different settings, including various city sizes and the judiciary, and appeared as a “soft spoken,” thoughtful, business-minded and objective individual.

Hyatt said Milliman’s understanding of effective municipal government operations was apparent, and a skill she highly values.

Hyatt said he presented himself as a “calming” presence, skilled at communicating circumstances, roles and what decisions need to be made, as well as framing discussions in a manner conducive to efficient council business.

Milliman has a clear understanding of the parameters of the interim position and stated one of his goals would be to help the council work well together, Seffinger said.

The position calls for someone who can help clarify roles and responsibilities for the city manager and City Council — identifying what could be considered “micromanaging” versus policymaking — and help the council explore their community visions together, she said.

“I think we have more things in common than we probably know,” Seffinger said of the council.

“Connecting so that you understand the history of people is also an important part of developing some level of trust, and I think developing trust is going to be an important issue for this council,” she said. “My main concern is that the council serves the people, and that we learn together that that should be our goal, is finding a way of working successfully so that we can get what the city needs done.”

Hanks performs more tasks than a city manager traditionally does because of his 30-year tenure and previous roles working for the city, Seffinger said. Her expectations of the next person in the interim role will be as a stabilizer to help the city prepare to choose a permanent city manager, not a “changemaker” pushing for new programs, for example.

Milliman’s emergency preparedness and crisis management experience are attractive given the wildfires currently burning in the region, she added.