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Julian Bell

Bell joins re-elected incumbents on Ashland parks commission

After handily retaining their seats in a recall election last March over handling of senior program changes, Michael Gardiner and Rick Landt have won re-election to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.

Gardiner, a veteran of 16 years at the post, snared 61.26 percent of the early vote count to defeat accountant Tim Kelly, 5,485 to 3,443.

Landt, who has served 12 years on the commission, captured 74.14 percent of the vote to beat attorney Howard McEwan, 6,632 to 2,292.

Newcomer Julian Bell, a physician with Providence Medford Medical Center, took 55.64 percent to win election over Jim Bachman, with totals of 4,989 to 3,955 for an open seat.

Bell ran for governor two years ago, with emphasis on climate change. He said he will constrain budgets, communicate with the public better and prepare parks for lower energy and water use during climate change.

“I was motivated to be in politics so I could work on climate change and parks has the potential to make small-scale impact on projects that can be scaled up,” Bell said. “Our golf course that the city manages may be a luxury we’re going to have hard time affording, especially the water. Making Lithia Park more firewise is also important.”

He said he will constrain budgets, communicate with the public better and prepare parks for lower energy and water use during climate change.

His opponent, accountant James Bachman, said he would better financial management to the department and engage the public more.

Gardiner, Landt and Jim Lewis, who did not run for re-election, prevailed in the recall backed by a group called Support Our Seniors. Voters rejected by a 70 percent margin charges the commissioners mishandled the budget, weren’t sufficiently transparent about public meetings and disrupted established senior center programs and staff.

Gardiner said he campaigned in this election on completion of several big projects, including plans for a revamp of the Japanese Garden, a new park in south Ashland, a second dog park, the 100-year master plan for Lithia Park and the remodel or rebuild of the city swimming pool, with is pushing 40 years of age.

“I’m also a true believer in the senior program and I suffered for it,” he said, referring to the recall. “I’m very proud of the program we’ve put together now. We hired quality people and we look to partner with several organizations in town and through the county. We’ve got the right emphasis to reach out to the Ashland senior population, especially the ‘super-seniors’ (over age 85).”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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