Ashland city manager Benjamin Bitter.
ASHLAND - Benjamin Bitter says there were a number of factors that caused him to look favorably upon Ashland when he was researching the city to try to determine whether he wanted to apply for the city manager's job here.
But there was one in particular, he
said, that jumped out at him.
The Ann Arbor, Mich., native had spent the previous several years in Arizona and said he
was longing to get back to an area "where they have four seasons.
In Arizona, they have two - summer and hotter than summer," he
Asked if the, no pun intended, bitterly cold weather of the past week had him rethinking his
said no, not in the slightest, and that he
family were extremely happy here.
was hired in November by the board of city commissioners to replace Steve Corbitt, who retired after seven years in the position.
In fact, Bitter
said the change had probably been more difficult for the city staff than for him because Ashland "has traditionally had long-serving city managers.
With someone coming in from the outside, such as myself, it's been a new experience for them."
Bitter is Ashland's third city manager since William H. Fisher Jr. retired in 2006.
Bitter was employed as a senior management analyst with the city of Casa Grande, Ariz., prior to coming to Ashland.
learned about the pending vacancy here from his
friend, Sean Baenziger of Colin Baenziger and Associates, the firm hired by the commission to assist in the search for Corbitt's successor.
The initial pool of 59 applicants for the city manager position was whittled down to eight finalists, but one withdrew from consideration and a second failed a background check.
was chosen from the final pool of six.
said something else that prompted him to throw his
hat in the ring for the position was the prominence of the health-care industry in both the city and the region.
At 31, Bitter
is substantially younger than Ashland's city managers have traditionally been.
said it wasn't at all uncommon for people his
age and younger to be employed as city managers, particularly in cities out West.
In fact, he
said the city manager he
worked for in Casa Grande was 25 when he
was hired for that job.
City manager is typically viewed as a "mid-career" position among government professionals, he
Working in a city manager's office, Bitter said, taught him a great deal about the role of a city manager and helped prepare him for his current job, he said.
One thing he
learned very well was that it's the responsibility of a city manager to carry out policy, not to make it.
Bitter, who has a bachelor's degree in political science from Brigham Young University and a master's degree in public administration from Arizona State University, said it was his experience living in Chile while on a two-year Mormon mission that made him decide he wanted a career in government.
Living in another country, he
said, opened his
eyes to how government can affect peoples' lives, for better and for worse.
lived in the Chilean city of Maipu (pronounced my-POO.)?His first day there, he
was caught in a torrential rainstorm and water was flowing in the streets "basically like a river."
couldn't understand why no one from the city came to try and correct the situation and "why my brand-new suit had to get ruined the first day I was there."
likes to joke that he
has worked his
way backwards, from federal government to local, "but that's where I like it.
The local level is where government works best," he
Bitter wasn't first choice of at least some of the city commission members to replace Corbitt, and one commissioner, Kevin Gunderson, voted against hiring him to the $110,000-a-year position.
However, Bitter said there been no lingering animosity between him and any of the commissioners and that he'd found all of them, and Mayor Chuck Charles, to be great to work with.
main goal as city manager was to help Ashland achieve its full potential and become a "role model" for other cities in the region.
To do that, he
believes the city needs to capitalize on its position as a regional health care, retail and entertainment hub.
"We're already on our way in that we have more jobs in the city than we do people who live here," he
said raising two young daughters doesn't leave him much time for hobbies, but that he
does enjoy watching sports in his
a life-long NASCAR fan, thanks, he
said, to his
father working for Ford
, and said his
all-time hero is driver Davey Allison, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1993.
got to meet Allison several times as a child "and he
was always so gracious.
I just saw him as someone to model my life after."
office is decorated with several diecast replicas of Allison's Ford Thunderbird race cars, as well as a print depicting Allison and Alan Kulwicki, who edged Allison out for the 1992 NASCAR?title and who was killed in a plane crash the same year as Allison.
Benjamin Bitter says there were a number of factors that caused him to look favorably upon Ashland when he was researching the city to try to determine whether he wanted to apply for the city manager's job here.