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Tonya Graham
City Councilor

Ashland City Councilor Tonya GrahamI grew up in Wadsworth, Nevada, a very small town on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation. My father worked in a cement plant and was elected as the Justice of the Peace when I was 7 years old. I grew up watching him serve the people of our community with thoughtfulness, compassion, and accountability. Watching from the vantage point of a child, I learned the value of community service and the impact local decisions can have on the fabric and function of a community.  

Concerns about the environment were not top of mind when I left Wadsworth for Occidental College. While chronic seasickness put an end to my dream of being a marine biologist, my time in Los Angeles forced me to confront the ecological impacts of how people were living on the land. I changed my major to Biophysical Environmental Studies and transferred to Northland College in Wisconsin. After Northland, it was on to Vermont to complete a MA in Community Development at Goddard College.  
 
Ashland has been my home for over 20 years and is now my second hometown. I have raised my children here because of its safe environment, natural beauty, dedication to its children, and its eclectic mix of small town and nationally renowned theater, art, and music. Ashland is an incredible place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.  
 
I have spent my professional life working to address ecological and climate challenges, starting from a place of collaboration and aiming for a win-win solution wherever possible. I am the Executive Director of the Geos Institute where much of my work focuses on helping communities build climate resilience.  
 
This work has taught me that it is nearly impossible to separate environmental issues from other community issues. It has also taught me how to engage a community to help it create integrated, holistic solutions to some of its most difficult challenges – a skill that is increasingly important as Ashland works to address local issues, such as the housing crisis, homelessness, economic disruption, and climate change.  
 
My activities in the community include serving:  
  • on the City of Ashland’s Wildfire Safety Commission 
  • as co-chair of the Ashland School District’s Bond Committee 
  • as a parent coordinator of Senior All Night celebrations  
  • as a member of the turf field fundraising effort at AHS 
  • as a youth basketball, volleyball and softball coach 
  • on the Church Council for the Ashland United Church of Christ 
  • as the Board Treasurer for the Nonprofit Association of Oregon 
My desire to serve the people of Ashland on the City Council comes from my love of this place and its people. I believe everyone has a role to play in serving their community and I see my service on the Council as one of the ways that I can personally contribute. I have seven children, six of whom are grown. My youngest son attends Ashland High School. 

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