Ashland’s Interim City Manager Given Indefinite Appointment By Council

Cotta Given Indefinite Appointment as Interim City Manager 

By David Runkel

Sabrina Cotta last night was appointed interim Ashland City Manager for an indefinite period of time as a majority of city councilors agreed that “time is not of the essence” in finding someone else to oversee the operations of city government and its business enterprises. 

Cotta has served as acting city manager since last October’s ouster of Joe Lessard, whose last day on  the city payroll is Jan. 31 although he moved back to Austin, Texas, three months ago.
She is the 13th person to hold the top administrative position in Ashland’s government since the retirement of Brian Almquist in 1998 after 25 years running the city. 

Before coming to Ashland in 2022 to be deputy city manager, Cotta held a series of low and mid-level positions for Colorado local governments.  Her last job there was director of administrative and internal services for the Pueblo West, CO, government where she supervised 14 staffers.  Pueblo West provides limited services in an unincorporated part of Pueblo County.  Ashland has more than 250 workers.

Cotta holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arizona and a master of public administration from the University of Alaska.

After approving Cotta’s employment contract, Council directed Human Services Director Molly Taylor to explore using  a national recruiting firm or the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG)  to conduct a search for a new city manager.  In response to questions from councilors, Taylor said her department did not have the capacity to conduct a national search and that a professional recruiting firm would have a “better reach” for candidates. 

Councilor Gina DuQuenne urged her colleagues to consider the services of RVCOG, which conducted a recently conducted city manager search for Talent, which resulted in the hiring of Gary Milliman, who had served as an interim manager in Ashland three years ago. 

Mayor Tonya Graham and other councilors had questions about the capacity of RVCOG to reach beyond regional candidates, leading to Taylor being asked to come back to Council with information on it as well as the services of search firms.  This was unanimously approved.

Before the vote, Councilor Dylan Bloom proposed tabling consideration of even conducting a search, saying any decision on replacing Lessard should await the results of this year’s city elections when the mayor’s spot and four of the six Council positions are up for election.  No one supported him, but Councilors Jeff Dahle, Bob Kaplan and Eric Hansen used almost the same words of “time is not of the essence” in making a decision on replacing Lessard.

In other business, Council:

– Agreed to a $600,000 pilot program to upgrade the “speed and reliability” of the Ashland Fiber Network service with the first improvements being done in the Granite Street and Southern Oregon University sections.  Several councilors pushed for expansion of better AFN services in southeast Ashland neighborhoods and business districts.

– Approved a new city ordinance closing all city parks between the hours of midnight to 5 a.m., although runners, hikers and bikers would be permitted to pass through.

– Agreed to spending $550,000 of state grant money to replace the former Briscoe School roof and $177,000 to upgrade the city’s computer networking equipment. 


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