Council Corner: Two jobs end, another begins

Over the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as manager of Ashland Emergency Food Bank and as a member of the Ashland City Council. Serving in these two positions has left me with a deep appreciation of the fundamental goodness in our community.

I have often remarked that managing the Food Bank is the best job in town — a chance to be a front-row witness in a place where neighbors come together for the most noble of purposes. Every day we welcome families waiting at our doors and we often hear their stories — both of triumph and of struggle. Every story, no matter the tenor, ends with gratitude. The Food Bank is here when life goes awry and one’s best efforts fall a little short. Food is fundamental; no one is prepared to tackle other life challenges until the belly has been quieted and the children fed.

Along with our clients, every morning we greet a stream of community members coming in the back door to offer help. These folks (you may be one of them) offer hours of time, extra cans from the cupboard, a few dollars and much more. Their generosity is astounding and compassion unending in the service of our neighbors.

In particular, this past week produced a barrage of heartwarming moments. On Wednesday we distributed 240 Thanksgiving boxes, each containing a turkey or turkey breast and all of the traditional fixings to very grateful families.

Albertsons’ Turkey Bucks program provided 70 of those dinners to us; the rest were cobbled together from an array of holiday donations from individuals, organizations and businesses ranging from the Cub Scouts and a local marijuana dispensary to the Oak Knoll Golf Course to the dozen faith based organizations that support us on a regular basis. On Tuesday afternoon Grange employees pulled into our parking lot with a big flatbed and brought us 2,500 pounds of potatoes. As of today, many of those spuds have already been boiled, mashed and eaten as part of family holiday celebrations.

That’s just a sampling of the gifts offered. One morning at the Food Bank will affirm your faith in the existence of fundamental human kindness.

In a different context, service on our City Council has also been a window into our shared desire to build a strong, inclusive and resilient community.

During these past four years I’ve worked with council colleagues who consistently do their best to make sound decisions. Every week they listen to input, assess data and often dive deeply into issues that can be confusing, confounding and controversial.

Some issues — not always the most important ones — generate extensive input from residents. By its nature, public debate often exaggerates our differences. Few council decisions satisfy everyone, and sometimes they seem to satisfy very few. But I have learned from being part of this process that behind the clash of viewpoints you will find a shared commitment to our community.

Perhaps you have been part of our ongoing democratic dialogue. If you have intercepted a council member at the grocery store or on the street, emailed us, fired off a letter to the editor or offered your comments at a council meeting, you have helped shape the public discourse and held our public officials accountable. If so, thank you for sharing your point of view and your passion.

This is my last council column. With your support, I’ll take on new responsibilities as your state representative beginning in January. I begin that mission knowing that I can depend upon you to consider state issues with same fervor and wisdom that I’ve observed at the Food Bank and in the council chambers.

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your commitment and your partnership. I look forward to our continued work together.

— Pam Marsh is a member of the Ashland City Council and State Rep.-elect for House District 5.

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