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Ashland appoints new city manager

Ashland has its first fulltime city manager.

Ashland City Council approved the hiring Friday of Joseph Lessard, who brings 35 years of municipal government management and consulting experience, as city manager. Lessard is slated to assume the post Jan. 3, 2022.


Of about 20 applications submitted during a search period, four semi-finalists, including Lessard, proceeded to interviews with the mayor, City Council, a management/employee panel and a citizen/community leader panel, according to council documents prepared by interim City Manager Gary Milliman.

Lessard worked for the past nine years as a consultant in the private sector and local government in the fields of economic development, project management, intergovernmental and community relations, mediation and land development, according to council documents.

Lessard was the assistant city manager for for nine years in Austin, Texas, with administrative duties covering more than half of the city’s departments, including enterprise, public safety, development and infrastructure services, according to his resume.

As assistant city manager for Dallas, Texas, for four years, he provided support to the city manager and deputy city manager on assignments such as establishing a city risk management program, annual city employee survey and city council agenda process. Other experience included more than 11 years as senior planning director with Knudson, LP.

Lessard visited Ashland and met with the mayor and all members of the City Council, Milliman said.

“I absolutely appreciated the opportunity to learn about [Lessard’s] extensive work and project experience and the incredible ways that it will dovetail well into what Ashland does and what Ashland needs going forward,” Councilor Paula Hyatt said during the Dec. 10 special meeting.

“My professional experience has been distinct in that I’ve often been asked to manage high profile or difficult issues while honoring the policy direction and organizational capabilities of the governmental entity or private client I served,” Lessard wrote in application materials.

Lessard holds a master’s degree in public affairs with a concentration in public finance and bachelor’s degrees in business administration and political science.

A charter change went into effect last Jan. 1 eliminating the position of city administrator and creating a city manager position with greater administrative authority. Milliman replaced former interim city manager Adam Hanks in August, with a goal to help the city select a permanent city manager.

“I feel after all the vetting and everything that has come down the pipe, that we’re fortunate to have a candidate of this caliber,” Mayor Julie Akins said.

The starting annual salary for the city manager is $163,477, with relocation reimbursement up to $20,000 and housing assistance up to $2,500 per month for six months, according to the employment agreement. Salary may increase to $171,651 after six months pending a performance evaluation.

The appointment takes effect Jan. 3, 2022. Lessard has accepted a conditional offer of employment, Milliman said Dec. 10.

A motion to approve Lessard as city manager passed unanimously.

“It has been quite some time since we’ve known that we’ve been on this path to getting a city manager,” Councilor Tonya Graham said. “We found a candidate who is supported by, I believe, this full council, the staff and the community.”

Reach reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.