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Sally Russell wins Bend mayoral race


Sally Russell took home a historic win on Tuesday night for being Bend’s first directly elected mayor in 90 years. She also made history for being the first woman directly elected to the position.

Russell won’t be the first female mayor — that was Ruth Burleigh (and later Kathie Eckman), who were, like their male counterparts for 90 years, appointed by their fellow councilors to the position. Voters recently approved a city charter change to return to the directly elected mayoral position of Bend’s earliest days.

Russell told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday she’s honored to represent the people of Bend.

She said she takes her position very seriously, especially because this time around, the people actually chose her.

“It just resonates more strongly if you are the elected mayor,” Russell said. “I think that’s powerful for our community. But it’s also powerful for our community, because it means they have one person who they expect to embody the values throughout our town.”

“I take that on,” she said.

Russell won about 50 percent of the ballots in a six-way race, ahead of 41 percent for fellow City Councilor Bill Moseley.

NewsChannel 21 wanted to know: What does a mayor actually do? Is it purely symbolic?

Russell said no.

She said first and foremost, her job is to be the figurehead of Bend’s community. That means embodying all the values important to people here — whether they voted for her or not.

Russell said she’ll also be responsible for working with the city manager and setting City Council meeting agendas and managing the meetings so they’re run efficiently. She said her role involves making sure everyone’s voices are heard and policies actually move forward.

When she takes office in January, Russell said the first thing she plans to do is bring city councilors together and really figure out who they represent in the community.

“Bring the team together and then, of course, the thing that follows after that, is really begin to drill down and determine what our goals are,” Russell said. “I would guess that transportation is part of that. I would strongly guess that affordable housing is absolutely part of that, economic vibrancy for our community — short term and long term — and certainly looking at the values of this natural landscape.”

When Russell becomes mayor, she’ll leave behind an open council seat and the mayor pro-tem position.

Selecting a mayor pro-tem (the person who fills in when a mayor is unavailable) is a fairly straightforward process. When councilors meet in the new year, they’ll choose someone who’s already on the council. That person will then serve a two-year-term.

Filling the open council seat, however, could prove to be a bit more complicated.

A protocol in Bend’s city charter mandates that when there’s an open seat in council, the opening has to be filled within 30 days. Councilors won’t be able to discuss how to fill that position until January, when Russell officially becomes mayor and the seat opens up.

“We’re looking at that calendar and trying to figure out how to set up that process in a responsible way but move through it in the confines of that the charter has set out for us,” Russell said. “I don’t know what that looks like, but we have a couple of ideas and so, stand by. It’s important, and I think we need to go through it thoughtfully.”

There’s a bit of confusion swirling around about Moseley’s future in Bend.

Russell explained that Moseley may have lost his bid to be mayor, but he’ll continue to serve in his city councilor position, finishing out the rest of his term for the next two years.

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