One of the wonderful things about Ashland is that we suffer no shortage of citizen engagement. This stands in sharp contrast to most other communities that struggle to get citizens involved in city government. In fact, seminars offered at mayors’ or city administrators’ conferences on promoting civic engagement bear little relevance to Ashland with its highly engaged community.
Some of that level of engagement is simply a function of the type of person who chooses to live in Ashland: politically aware, articulate and able to express opinions thoughtfully. But we’d like to believe it’s also related to the fact that Ashland has 15 standing commissions appointed by the council, plus the elected Parks Commission. Plus we currently have four ad hoc committees working on specific issues, ranging from downtown traffic circulation to the future of the recycling center.
Some of our boards and commissions are specifically required by state law or the city charter. For instance, every city has a Planning Commission and Budget Committee. But while many cities, including ones much larger than us, have just five or six standing boards/commissions (and will often struggle to fill those positions), Ashland has chosen to follow a path that offers more opportunity for engagement to more citizens.
Many of the boards and commissions provide a forum for exploration of key issues and then become a pipeline for input to the City Council. Examples include the Conservation Commission, the Housing and Human Services Commission and the Transportation Commission. Others have a quasi-management responsibility for specific enterprises or functions in City government, such as the Airport Commission or the Public Art Commission.
No matter where your interest lies, we probably have an appointed body that would welcome and benefit from your time and talent (though you may have to wait for a position to open up).
We know that some people shy away from this type of public service because of the time commitment involved. However, most of these boards and commissions require only the time it takes to attend a monthly meeting along with the time to read the materials that are prepared for each meeting.
And while the city benefits from the energy that each citizen brings to the board or commission on which they serve, those who serve enjoy the rewards of contributing to our incredible quality of life in Ashland and getting an in-depth education about Ashland city government. You’ll also meet fellow Ashlanders from all walks of life, who will open your mind to new ways of thinking about the city you call home.
For any of you reading this who have ever wondered about how to become more involved in your community and help build on those things that make Ashland such an exceptional place to live and work — we encourage you to consider serving on a city board or commission.
To see where the vacancies are, go to the City Recorder page on the city of Ashland web site (www.ashland.or.us) and click on the Commission Vacancies link. Our boards and commissions really do make a difference and you can be a key difference-maker, too!
John Stromberg is mayor of Ashland. Dave Kanner is Ashland city administrator.