ASHLAND A current Ashland city commissioner has filed for mayoral candidacy in the 2024 election.
Josh Blanton, who serves as mayor pro tempore, is the second person to add his name to the ballot. Former mayor Chuck Charles was the first.
Mayor Matt Perkins announced last month that he will not run for another term.
Blanton is in his second term as a commissioner. He serves alongside fellow commissioners Amanda Clark, Cheryl Spriggs and Marty Gute in addition to Perkins in the city manager form of government. Mike Graese has been the city manager since 2017.
Blanton, 41, has been the plant manager at Vesuvius USA — a manufacturer in the iron and steel industries — in Wurtland since 2015.
After Perkins announced his last day as Ashland’s mayor would be Dec. 31, 2024, Blanton mulled over the decision and discussed it with his family.
He ultimately envisioned himself in the mayor’s seat as a positive move for Ashland.
“It’s going to be vital to have somebody as Mayor who understands the details of the projects and efforts that have been going on,” Blanton said, referring specifically to infrastructure improvements and downtown revitalization.
Blanton draws criticism at times, he said, for “communicating too much” but “that’s who I am; it’s what I do.”
“I like to get the thoughts of the citizens,” he said, adding that he wants people to contact him when they have questions or concerns.
Blanton said one standout aspect he’s learned from Perkins is the importance of unity.
“He really did an outstanding job of keeping us on task,” Blanton said. “You had four very different commissioners who have achieved a lot together.”
Blanton said he’s also absorbed advice from former Mayor Steve Gilmore, who retired prior to Blanton assuming a commissioner’s seat.
If elected next November, he looks forward to working in a slightly different capacity with Graese. Blanton, Clark and Perkins on Thursday voted to approve a considerable pay raise for the city manager. If Graese accepts, his contract will be extended past Jan. 31, 2024.
“I’ve worked with a lot of professionals in my career, and just the thoroughness of Mr. Graese, I mean, it’s frustrating sometimes just how thorough he is,” Blanton said with a laugh. “The job for the city is just so personal to him. I’m like that, too.
“I think sometimes people take for granted the job that he does,” he added. “Some people have no idea what we would miss by not having his leadership here. … Leadership is hiring the right person and then trusting them until they give you a reason not to.”
Blanton said the average citizen probably doesn’t realize how many decisions the commission makes that pertains directly to city staff. He didn’t, he admitted, before he became commissioner.
“I’ve gotten to know our staff, and just the professionalism they have, it’s great,” Blanton said. “All these different teams we have, whether it’s wastewater or water distribution or whatever, it really is one big operation.”
Blanton said he enjoys seeing how the decisions impact citizens directly, such as the new playground in Central Park allowing all children to play as they had not previously had the opportunity to do.
“It’s good to have managerial skills and understand finance and all that,” Blanton said, “but you gotta have compassion for the citizens. You gotta have that dedication.”
Blanton said if he is elected, he’d like to see a more comprehensive and detailed budget plan in place.
“I’d love to see us develop more of a five-year-type budgeting plan,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to have changes, but you can adjust to them.”
Blanton said the city’s financial status is solid right now. He said the city is moving in the right direction in many ways, and he thinks he can continue pushing forward.
“Any box that you’re looking to check in terms of being qualified (for mayor), I feel like I adequately check any of those boxes,” Blanton said.
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