The city of Ashland has hired Kelly Madding, the number-two manager with the city of Medford, as its new city administrator.
Madding prevailed in a field that included two experienced city executives, Assistant to the City Administrator Adam Hanks and Public Works Director Paula Brown.
“She got the job because she seemed to have the combination of experience and style of interactive management and working well with city employees and residents,” said Mayor John Stromberg, who, after much consultation with the City Council and panel interviews with candidates, made the final decision, which is subject to confirmation by the City Council at its next regular meeting on July 3.
“She had forward-thinking ideas I hope to implement as soon as possible,” said Stromberg, “such as meeting with the council in clusters of three, which would not violate open meetings laws by being a quorum. I think it would help us be better informed and move faster on ideas and doing immediate three-year time horizon goal setting processes.”
Madding, 52, an Ashland resident, was a planner with the city of Ashland from 1992 to 1997, fresh out of her master’s degree in public administration at University of Oregon. Here, she administered Community Development Block Grants.
Madding went on to briefly be city manager of Talent, then to Jackson County Developmental Services, mainly working on code enforcement and urban renewal, then planning, building and public works tasks with the city of Medford after she became deputy city manager in May 2017.
“I feel honored and thrilled to be selected to lead Ashland’s administrative function, joining a top-notch team of city staffers and department heads,” she said in an interview. “While I’m a relatively known quantity because I’ve been in the valley over 20 years, I still bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the city.
“I think it (her selection) may also have been about my management style. I’m an open and collaborative leader and like to hear from all sides if we’re making a decision. I’m not afraid to make the hard choices or carry out difficult policy. But I’m also open to a variety of thoughts and ideas.”
Madding fills the gap left by the firing of City Administrator Dave Kanner in 2016. City Fire Chief John Karns filled the spot until March, then Hanks stepped in as acting city administrator.
Madding acknowledged the city’s main issues — affordable housing, homelessness, climate change, senior programs and the financial challenge of Public Employees Retirement System, noting they are all regional, if not national issues and that her job is learning how the council wants to “successfully continue to deliver services while in the shadow of PERS, how to maintain and enhance infrastructure.”
Madding said there’s a lot to learn as the new city administrator and she’s counting on the mayor and council to help teach her, as, “It’s a moving train. Every city is. When you get a new city administrator, they have to jump on. I’ve lived here a long time and I’m familiar with it. I’ve got learning to do. I don’t think the city wanted someone to come in and say I know everything … I’m a strong, capable leader, but I also need to learn the details.”
Madding takes the job July 30.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.