Councilors Lemhouse, Voisin have challengers

Salvation Army Development Director Jackie Agee is hoping to unseat Carol Voisin, a senior instructor at Southern Oregon University, in the race for Ashland City Council Position No. 1 come November.

In the Position No. 5 race, Ashland Parks and Recreation Commissioner Rich Rosenthal, retiree Regina Ayars and attorney Bruce Harrell will compete to fill the seat vacated by longtime Councilor Russ Silbiger, who is not seeking re-election.

City Councilor Greg Lemhouse, a former Medford policeman now working for Brammo Inc., is being challenged by community activist and homeless man Keith Haxton in Position No. 3.

Candidates have until Aug. 23 to file paperwork to run for city office.

Agee vs. Voisin

Agee said her frustration at political wrangling in Washington, D.C., prompted her to run for Ashland City Council.

"Elected officials want to blame each other rather than solve problems. True change starts at the local level," Agee said. "I want to be a part of the solution."

Like Voisin, Agee said she is concerned about issues such as affordable housing and homelessness. But Agee said there are differences between herself and the incumbent.

"Carol and I just look at things differently," Agee said. "I provide an alternative voice. I see a livable community and a strong business community as going hand-in-hand."

Agee said a very vocal minority dominates dialogue in Ashland.

"I bring common sense and a spirit of cooperation to the table so all can be represented," she said.

Agee said she opposes a proposal in the city's draft Transportation System Plan to reduce the number of car lanes downtown. She supports a redesign of the downtown Plaza, which has become worn from use.

Before working for the Salvation Army, Agee was the development director for the Southern Oregon Humane Society, an account executive for Charter Media, a classified advertising manager for the Mail Tribune, publisher of the Vancouver Business Journal and publisher of the Ashland Daily Tidings, according to her elections paperwork.

Voisin said she is supportive of Ashland's business community.

"I've done quite a bit to encourage the growth and diversity of Ashland's businesses," she said.

Voisin said she has supported the revival of downtown and railroad district master plans to guide development and planning for those key business areas.

Voisin said she has encouraged SOU students and Ashland businesses to reach out to each other.

She regularly takes part in Downtown Presence — formerly known as Plaza Watch — in which residents walk the downtown and take notes on activities and behavior they see.

Voisin said she believes people behave better when Downtown Presence members are observing the area.

Some members of the business community criticized Plaza Watch earlier this year, saying it understated problem behavior, especially by homeless people.

Voisin said she personally visits downtown businesses to ask them about their needs, and would like to see efforts to get more tourists to visit the side of downtown that is closest to the Ashland library.

Harrell vs. Rosenthal vs. Ayars

Harrell said he filed because he believes Ashland is headed in the wrong direction.

He opposes the city's plans this fall to reduce car lanes on Main Street as it comes into town on the side closest to Talent.

He also opposes the downtown lane reduction proposal in the draft Transportation System Plan.

Harrell said the city government instead should "focus on increasing available parking, reducing bus fares and increasing police manpower for patrols, investigation and enforcement."

Harrell said the city needs to reduce unnecessary spending, especially for outside consultants.

He thinks Ashland should finish the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water line connection, which would bring supplemental water to Ashland.

The city currently plans to make a connection that would supply only emergency water for Ashland, while building a second water treatment plant and a new storage tank.

In 2010, Harrell ran for a City Council seat but lost to Dennis Slattery, who teaches business courses at SOU.

Rosenthal said he would resign from his position on the Ashland Parks Commission if elected to the council. He works as the recreation superintendent for the Medford parks system.

The father of a young son, Rosenthal said he supports economic development, downtown revitalization and the creation of living-wage jobs in Ashland.

"I love Ashland and I'm interested in the decisions that are being made about the community," Rosenthal said. "I'd like to lend my expertise and perspective now while I'm younger and still have a child at home."

He said councilors should make rational decisions based on facts, not be obstructionist, and be open, responsive and approachable.

Rosenthal said the council and Ashland Budget Committee ultimately control the budget for the parks system, not the parks commission.

He said he would like to see a vibrant, well-funded parks system.

Ayars is retired from a career in the high-tech sector and remains active on a number of volunteer committees. She said she is running to promote greater civility on the council.

Ayars said earlier this month that councilors act with alarming uniformity of thought and don't represent Ashland, which she believes is tolerant, generous and forward-thinking.

Ayars said the council needs more political, philosophical and gender diversity to reflect the diversity of views held by residents.

Lemhouse vs. Haxton

Lemhouse is the director of global fleet development for Brammo, an electric motorcycle manufacturer currently based in Ashland but moving to Talent in the fall. He favors economic development and downtown revitalization.

Haxton said he believes the council has become too conservative and he is running on a platform of compassion, sustainability, safety for all residents and increased opportunities for people to speak to their elected officials.

For a previous story on this year's council race, visit

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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