Incumbent Darby Ayers-Flood and Mark Anderson are facing off in the Talent mayoral race.
Talented voters face a clear choice in the mayoral race: continue business as usual or make a change, says two-term incumbent mayoral hopeful.
Mark Anderson, a 34-year-old Talent resident, is challenging Darby Ayers-Flood, who was elected to the top job in 2014 and 2018 and has held city office for two decades.
A proposal to form a new urban renewal district in the city that would have cut funding for fire and city services, including police, made Anderson interested in running. He is concerned about the impact of the reductions. Ayers-Flood had encouraged the formation.
The City Council considered adopting the proposal, which would have provided funds to help with restoration of the Almeda Fire, but decided against moving forward in August after more than 500 residents opposed the measure, as did local taxing jurisdictions that would have been affected. The council decided to put the formation of the district to a vote of the people.
The current goal is to have an urban renewal ballot measure ready to be sent to voters by May 2023, Ayers-Flood said.
“Urban renewal is a good idea,” says Anderson. But he thinks a vote in May 2023 may be too soon. That would allow a tax base to use values from January 1, 2022 before much of the rebuilding is complete. That time would still significantly affect fire, city and other taxing district budgets, and he would prefer the district’s tax base be set at values as of Jan. 1, 2023.
Both candidates belong to coalitions that include people running for four City Council seats. The Ayers-Flood coalition is made up of the incumbents of the seats. Anderson has citizens who showed up on their own initiative, but then rallied. Anderson said she sent out a flyer about her candidacy with the four council hopefuls listed on the back.
Ayers-Flood says the current board is the most collaborative and cohesive team she has seen.
“We don’t always agree on things, but when we have differences of views on important issues, we work it out with the intention of finding the best solution for the community,” the headline said. “We felt like we wanted to express that through our campaign. We work very well as a team.”
Support for city employees must come from elected officials, Anderson said, recalling a period in 2020 when employees criticized the atmosphere created by elected officials. The return of a 24/7 police force would also be a priority for Anderson.
“I think a change in the atmosphere would make a big difference in keeping the police here,” he said.
The main topics for Talent are those that residents are submitting, Ayers-Flood said. That includes the need for affordable housing and bringing home families who were displaced by the fire.
“We are still in transitional housing. There is a need to move towards permanent and affordable housing and develop plans that provide for the stakeholders, the survivors of the fire,” said Ayers-Flood.
“The other issue that I hear a lot about is just making sure that we continue to work on getting the business back on track. They are survivors too,” Ayers-Flood said. “With our city rebuilding, we want to do everything we can for the businesses that withstood the fire, that withstood COVID.”
“We still have a long way to go, but the build is encouraging. It’s no longer depressing to drive down Talent Avenue,” Anderson said. Low-income housing and helping businesses return are important needs, she said.
Ayers-Flood worked in the hospitality industry for several years, but is now a business development specialist for Micro Business Services of Oregon, which works to help people in underserved communities start their own businesses. She says there is enthusiasm in helping others achieve their dreams.
Anderson served as pastor of Ashland Christian Fellowship for 22 years. He is now self-employed as a home insurance inspector. He served in a non-denominational church where there was a cross-section of all denominations, and that generated strong opinions. He said that he learned to listen to people and value them, but not to let them drive the bus.
As president of the Firehouse 5 Foundation, Anderson said the group’s work with Ashland’s Oak Knoll fire victims taught him the value of nonprofits working together and helping families.
If he becomes mayor, Anderson said, he would bring back in-person City Council meetings. Currently, all meetings are held on Zoom, although the council is exploring how to offer hybrid sessions. As a semi-retired worker, Anderson said he would have time to listen to residents’ concerns.
Ayers-Flood said he will not exceed the $750 limit in campaign spending. He is doing some advertising and mailing, but he will give up the signs because there is a lot of work taking them out, reclaiming and recycling them. She is researching neighborhoods and the coalition is organizing meet and greets.
Anderson hasn’t set a campaign spending limit, but said he only received a few donations to help with expenses. She is putting up signs around town and knocking on doors to meet residents.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at firstname.lastname@example.org.