Ashland council approves interim city manager
During an expeditious meeting Tuesday, Ashland City Council unanimously approved an interim city manager, as well as a document clarifying the commissioner appointment process, and announced the site for a new urban campground.
The new temporary city manager is Gary Milliman, whose experience includes 40 years in city management and public affairs, economic development and crisis management.
Mayor Julie Akins said Milliman contacted the city after hearing of Ashland’s 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. “He has the education and years of experience, along with a collaborative background that make him a strong candidate for Ashland right now.”
Councilor Shaun Moran was absent due to an emergency, but Councilor Stefani Seffinger said Moran supported the interim city manager appointment process and would have voted “yes.”
Prior to the vote, Councilor Tonya Graham said she supported Milliman’s appointment, but retained some concern about the process that secured his position. The process approved at the June 29 council meeting, involving a staff-led search for a pool of candidates, didn’t appear to have been followed, she said.
“When we do this for real, for the permanent position, we must include staff in the actual vetting,” Graham said. “It is not enough that the mayor and council think that it’s a good idea. … I am fully supportive of Mr. Milliman and I think that having strong process allows whoever is coming into that position to do so from a place of strength and confidence from everyone who has to engage with that person.”
Acknowledging an “oversight,” Akins said she should have approached the council for greater discussion regarding a citizen panel she arranged to meet with Milliman, and reported their insights back to the council.
Akins said she consulted with staff on the selection, but encountered some logistical difficulty with a vacation in the HR department and a short timeline to fill the post.
“I look forward to working with all of you; the council, the mayor, the staff, and interacting with the citizens of the community,” Milliman said following his appointment. “I think we have a lot of work to do and I think we’re all up to the task, so I’m glad to be part of the team.”
In other business, Hanks said the Oregon Department of Transportation is reviewing an access control permit and has identified a potential window this autumn to cut an emergency on-ramp connecting North Mountain Avenue to Interstate 5. Officials began discussing the need for an emergency on-ramp following the Almeda fire of Sept. 8, 2020.
Such a project typically takes 8-10 years, Hanks said, crediting Public Works Director Scott Fleury for responding to community concern, pressing forward on the emergency route and collaborating productively with state and federal stakeholders.
The access control permit is slated for approval in August. Improvements on the emergency route would begin in 2022.
Hanks also announced the site for a 49-occupant urban campground, which will be operated by Rogue Retreat. The City Council accepted a $300,000 grant June 1 from Oregon Housing and Community Services to create the campground and purchase pallet shelters.
Rogue Retreat, which manages a similar emergency shelter operation for homeless people in Medford, agreed to lease the Calvary Baptist Church property at 2082 E. Main St., through June 2022, Hanks said.
Rogue Retreat staff will supervise the fenced and gated shelter and camp area 24 hours per day. The front gate will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Transportation services will help connect people to and from the Options for Helping Residents of Ashland Center and the campground. Referrals for campground occupancy must be obtained from OHRA.
Rogue Retreat expects the campground to open in September, well ahead of winter weather, Hanks said.
With the initial grant secured, a long-term funding channel remains unclear. In the future, the city should consider whether campgrounds are placed “appropriately throughout the region to get the best service and the best coverage we can,” Hanks said.
The document clarifying commission appointments does not alter rules set by Ashland Municipal Code. The document defines the process for eliciting feedback on appointments from commission chairs and council liaisons, Akins said.
Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4497.