A Portland resident with a high-tech background will be the new leader of both the Ashland Fiber Network and the city's electric department, officials announced Monday.

A Portland resident with a high-tech background will be the new leader of both the Ashland Fiber Network and the city's electric department, officials announced Monday.

Mark Holden worked most recently as the general manager and chief executive officer of Quantum Communications in Redmond. He also served as the chief information officer at Central Electric Cooperative, also in Redmond.

"I'm pleased Mark has accepted our offer," Stromberg said in a statement. "I believe he is the right person with the right skills for this complex job assignment and also is someone who will fit with the City staff and the community."

If confirmed by the City Council tonight, Holden will start work on Sept. 4. The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center at 1175 E. Main St.

Holden will lead AFN in his role as the city's director of information technology, while also doubling as the head of the electric department.

As the general manager and chief executive officer of Quantum Communications, Holden worked for a company that specialized in providing high-speed Internet to the business, health-care, government and education sectors.

In a phone interview, Holden said he worked there for 10 years but was terminated. The business was doing very well until the recent economic downturn, when it lost customers, he said.

Holden said leaders there disagreed over the format and content of the business plan and how it should be communicated, leading to his exit from the company.

Holden is living in Portland with his wife, who has had a position there for several years. He said his move there has allowed them to be together more often as a couple and avoid long commutes between Portland and Central Oregon.

Holden said he has reviewed some information about AFN and its plans, but will wait to meet with staff members before formulating ideas for AFN's future.

For several years, the city had one person heading both AFN and the electric department after it launched AFN in the late 1990s.

Faced with stiff competition from the private sector and higher-than-anticipated costs, AFN sank $15.5 million in debt.

The city then hired a person in 2006 to serve only as AFN's head. That, coupled with a spin-off of AFN's money-losing cable television side, stemmed the financial bleeding. AFN still operates a high-speed Internet service.

AFN and the electric department have been without their own leaders since 2010 and 2009, respectively, when the directors left for new jobs.

City of Ashland Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg has served as the head of both departments since July 2011.

"I am grateful to Lee and the staff in finance, electric and IT for all their work and patience these past months," Stromberg said.

Holden will earn an annual salary of $99,749, according to an employment agreement between Holden and the city.

City Administrator Dave Kanner said officials knew it would be challenging to find someone who could fill the dual roles, but it became evident during the interview process that Holden was the best qualified candidate with the required skill set.

Kanner said Holden also has excellent communications skills and is an experienced and energetic leader.

AFN's debt payment for the current fiscal year is $1.4 million. AFN is scheduled to pay $409,000 of that, Tuneberg said.

Property taxes and other city funds will make up the shortfall.

The property tax earmarked for AFN debt is almost 18 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, according to city budget documents.

The owner of a home assessed at $241,000 — the average in Ashland this year — will pay about $43 to help cover AFN debt.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.