Jun. 16—"I helped them a lot, but it's time to go," Alison Chan said as she talked about the end of her time with the city of Ashland and her pending retirement.
"When I was first was approached about working here, I wasn't really looking for a job because I was getting ready to retire, but I care about this valley and I care about the city of Ashland, so I'm glad I was able to help them out," Chan said.
Chan originally agreed to work as interim finance director for four to six months, but she wound up extended her time to nine months.
"It's scary — retiring is challenging in itself. But I'm looking forward to it," Chan said, "I'm ready to go play."
Chan is going home to Alaska, at least in part. She said she has spent enough time there to know she only wants to live there in the summer. Chan and her husband will split their time between Oregon and the last frontier state, where Chan said she looks forward to going fishing.
Chan said she has been working since she was 14 and got her first job at Burger King. To count the years of employment, Chan said she "backs into it" by thinking of the ages of her children, and when she and her husband moved to the Rogue Valley in 2002. Chan said she is now sitting up at night, thinking of everything she could do with her newfound free time.
At the close of the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Joe Lessard told the council it was their last chance to ask questions of Chan in advance of the council's discussion around the supplemental budget and Chan's efforts to make a more transparent city budget.
City councilors thanked Chan for her work and reflected on the source of the city's previously muddled finances as they discussed and passed budget resolutions.
"I would like to acknowledge Alison and all the work she's done," Lessard said, standing and clapping. The council and mayor followed suit, all giving Chan a standing ovation for her final council meeting.
Deputy City Manager Sabrina Cotta said the city is working on filling the finance director position. The city has gone out for recruitment twice at this point but faces a tough market. Cotta said there is hope that after July, once city budgets are settled, some may be seeking new opportunities and answer the city's job posting.
"She's been so valuable to us — we will miss her, for sure," Cotta said, describing the work Chan did for the city as really strong, especially in clearing up the city's previous problems of confusion surrounding the budget.
Cotta blamed the city's budget transparency problems on turnover between city finance directors, each doing things their own way, a sentiment echoed by Chan when she responded to a conversation at the special business meeting.
Councilor Shaun Moran characterized previous city budgeting as a "shell game," a statement councilors Stephen Jensen and Tonya Graham pushed against, with Graham stating it was important to "leave space" for those who came before and made decisions based on knowledge at the time.
Chan responded that the city's finances were nothing "inappropriate or nefarious" and that her reworking was only cleaner.
"I like to set things up so that historically you can understand what happened, not just in the moment you're in. The accounting record should stand alone in that," Chan said.
Cotta said there was a little send-off planned for Chan at the end of her last day, but much of the day was filled with the passing of the baton as the city manager's office prepared to take over for Chan while the city searches for her replacement.
"Joe and myself will step in with the finance team," Cotta said of the temporary arrangement. "There are many knowledgeable and experienced people here in the city."
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.