Two incumbents and two newcomers have taken the lead for Ashland City Council in Tuesday night returns.
Challenger Tonya Graham, Position 2, is the executive director of Geos Institute, an organization dedicated to community collaboration and education on climate change adaption and resilience planning. This organization worked with the city to develop its Climate and Energy Action Plan. She also serves on the wildfire mitigation committee and the Ashland School District Bond Committee.
She is leading with 6,746 votes, or 66.57 percent, against incumbent Michael Morris with 3,150 votes (31.08 percent) and Theodore White with 210 votes (2.07 percent). She said her initial focus is to help the community create priorities prior to the next budget process.
“We are facing some very significant challenges in Ashland and I think that people are hungry to be able to participate meaningfully in those solutions and I think in this campaign they saw a different energy in terms of how we tackle those challenges,” Graham said.
Challenger Julie Akins, Position 3, received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Puget Sound. She has served as an adjunct professor at SOU and as a freelance journalist covering the city of Ashland for the Ashland Daily Tidings.
She was leading with 5,319 votes (54.54 percent) against challengers Jackie Bachman with 3,890 votes (39.89 percent) and Al Willstatter with 515 votes (5.28 percent) in returns shortly after 10 p.m.
Akins said she thinks people voted for her because she stands for the change people want to see.
“I think people voted for me because I think they believed it was time for a change," Akins said. "That was what I said in my slogan and I think they heard that. I think they’re concerned with the fiscal policies of the city of Ashland and I addressed those things and I think they want a council that will take that seriously."
Stefani Seffinger, Position 4, was elected to the council in 2014 after serving on the Forest Lands Commission and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission. She’s also served on the Senior Program Advisory Board and the Conservation Commission, among other boards, commissions and committees. She earned her master’s in psychology from Cal State University Northridge.
She led with 5,415 votes, or 53.78 percent, against challenger Carol Voisin with 4,613 votes, or 45.81 percent.
Seffinger said she thinks her campaign was a success because she is accessible and community driven.
“I try to be involved in the community in many different ways,” Seffinger said. “I don’t think this was an easy election to be an incumbent. People are angry about things that are happening in our country, so I feel fortunate that people value what I’ve done.”
Stephen Jensen, Position 6, was appointed by the council after Traci Darrow stepped down when she moved outside of city limits. He’s served on the Forest Lands Commission, the Tree Commission and the Wildfire Mitigation Commission, among others. He was one of the primary editors for the 2016 Ashland Forest Plan and is currently one of the principal editors for the 2018 Ashland Trails Master Plan.
He is leading with 5,044 votes (51.36 percent) against challenger George Kramer with 3,915 votes (39.87 percent) and Randy Dolinger with 831 votes (8.46 percent).
Jensen said he thinks he had more experience to offer than his opponents, but he appreciates his opponents and the race they ran all the same.
“My broader depth of experience might have moved people my way… And I have deep roots in this community,” Jensen said. “I’m going to prioritize a unified vision to move forward and heal some of the dissension here in town within certain groups. We can’t change the past but we certainly can change the future.”
Offices are held for four-year terms and the election years for the positions are staggered. The last elections for Positions 1, 3 and 5 and the mayor occurred in 2016. The next elections for those positions will occur in 2020.
Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.