Akins served on the Ashland city council from 2018-2020, and spent the last two years as mayor, after being elected in November of 2020. The mayor of Ashland serves a four-year term, which would have come up for election in 2024.
In her letter, Akins didn’t provide a specific reason she’s leaving. In a statement on the city’s website she wrote: “It’s important to admit when it’s time and for me it’s time.” She did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“We usually meet on Mondays every week and so I was looking forward to our meeting this week and preparing for it,” City Manager Joe Lessard said, adding the announcement was unexpected. “I’m sure she had some real soul searching and decided that it was time for her to make a change.”
As mayor, Akins helped launch the Social Equity and Racial Justice Commission last year and helped the city recover from the Almeda Fire in 2020.
She has a long history as a journalist in Southern Oregon, having spent over five years as the news director of KOBI-TV, a reporter for the Medford Mail Tribune and a producer at Southern Oregon PBS.
Akins leaves office at a time when the city is addressing a $3 million budget shortfall. Last year, city staff decided the mayor and councilmember’s health benefits would be cut because they couldn’t find a source in city documents that outlined those benefits.
Lessard said Akins will be leaving behind some priorities she’s advocated for, including finding a permanent location for the emergency weather shelter. But he said all of the projects she’s worked on have the backing of city staff, and those staff will be able to continue that work without her.
According to the Ashland city charter, the mayor’s position will be filled within 60 days of its vacancy through an election by the city council. That person will remain mayor until the next election.
Lessard says in the past, vacant positions have been filled by an application process, with interested people sending an application to the city council for consideration.
“I don’t know the particular details of how the process will go,” said Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham, who ran against Akins for mayor in 2020. “None of us have been in this situation in replacing a sitting mayor. So we’re going to have to follow the protocols that are in place and have a discussion as a council.”
Graham said it’s too early in the process to speculate on who might replace Akins to finish out her term.
Julie Akins’ full statement announcing her resignation:
Fellow Councilors, the people of Ashland and Joe Lessard,
Today I am submitting my resignation, effective Friday, January 27th at the close of business.
I’ve served the community as a volunteer legislator for four years, two years as a city councilor and two years as your mayor. I’m proud of certain accomplishments: Creating the Social Equity and Racial Justice Committee, changing the focus to housing, funding emergency shelter for vulnerable populations, moving our community through the pandemic and the Almeda fire, working toward a sustainable budget and setting an agenda of transparency.
I’ve been honored to serve the people of Ashland as your elected mayor, an honor afforded few, and I have appreciated the support of the people. But it’s important to admit when it’s time and for me it’s time.
I hope I leave behind the understanding it’s possible to be kind and caring but firm and clear.
I would also like to thank my husband Leo who sacrificed so much in order for me to do this kind of volunteerism in our community and toward our shared values. And I look forward to spending more time with him, with my family and in rebuilding my career, which I love. To the people of Ashland: You will see me around and my heart remains open to you.
Take care of each other.