Ashland prepares for Hillary

The secret service descended on Ashland this week to prepare for the arrival of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at the Ashland Springs Hotel today.

Although security will be extra tight, those helping arrange other specifics of her visit said they are almost underwhelmed by the preparations.

"It's surprisingly not crazy," said Karolina Wyszynska, director of sales and marketing at the hotel. "We organize much bigger things all the time, and because it's the presidential candidate does not mean we run around like crazy."

The hotel has seen extra visitors from the Ashland Police Department and Ashland Fire and Rescue, developing a security plan and finishing up fire safety inspections.

Ashland and Medford officers will assist the secret service in security at the hotel both inside and out. Officers spent several hours on Tuesday and Wednesday working out the details and the closure of First Street, which will be restricted to foot traffic only between Hargadine and East Main Streets all day today, police said.

"It's actually not that much of an imposition on us. We knew it was coming and had some staffing prepared for it," said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness. "It's definitely going to cost us some overtime."

The extra costs come out of the city's budget and are not covered by the campaign, he said.

Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman also paid a visit just before Clinton's arrival for a routine fire inspection that occurs every few years.

"We were trying to be proactive," she said. "While we did it now because of this visit, we are also interested in the safety of everyone that's in that facility."

While the fire department is not involved in the street closures, it temporarily changes their response routes, she said.

The biggest challenge outside of the security for the hotel has been the constantly changing event times, Wyszynska said. The campaign originally requested a noon reception, and later changed to 4 p.m. Now the VIP fundraising event is scheduled for 5 p.m., and a larger forum begins at 5:30 p.m.

No large catering spreads were planned, only simple hors d'oeuvres, she said. Staff were understandably excited, but none were guaranteed to meet the candidate, she said.

"We don't promise anyone, 'Oh yeah, because you work here, you will be able to touch her,'" Wyszynska said.

For a guarantee to meet Clinton, tickets to the event were still available on Wednesday, at $2,300 for the VIP event and $250 for the forum.

Myra Silverman, a member of the host committee, planned to attend both events. She and other campaign volunteers previously had been planning for a visit from Bill Clinton, but a chance to meet Hillary made the week more exciting, she said.

"It's an opportunity we have never had before," she said. "To have a presidential candidate come to Ashland is really a coup for Ashland."

Hotel guests were not informed of Clinton's visit, but those who learned of her visit were surprised, though none planned to purchase tickets.

Jim Harlan, a guest from the central Oregon coast, said he supports Clinton's competitor, Barack Obama, but was still pleased to learn of Clinton's visit.

He and his wife have tickets to the Shakespeare festival today and "would not change their plans because Hillary would be in town," he said.

"I think it's very human to be excited about being in close proximity to somebody on the international stage," he said.

Although he's followed Bill and Hillary Clinton's careers for several years, his plans to take his wife to the Shakespeare festival this evening still stand, he said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

Share This Story