Bend's Mayor-Elect on Making Bend Better ▶ [with video] | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Bend's Mayor-Elect on Making Bend Better ▶ [with video]

After Melanie Kebler's Election Day victory, she chats with the Source about her agenda for the future

Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler became Mayor-Elect Melanie Kebler Tuesday night, besting rival Chris Piper in a two-person race for the city's top elected position. Kebler was elected to the Bend City Council during the 2020 election, and now, with two years left in that term, one of her first tasks as mayor will be to help appoint the person to sit in the remaining two years of that term.

If that sounds like deja vu, it kind of is; Sally Russell was tasked with doing the same thing when she became Bend's first directly elected mayor in 2018. Russell is largely credited with the selection of Piper—who, after serving on the Council beginning in 2019, was not elected to the position by voters in 2020. Still, he decided to run again—this time for mayor—this time around. Got all that?

The Source Weekly chatted with Kebler Wednesday about the process for selecting the new appointee, which she said she hopes to make more transparent and with more community input this time around. We also talked about her win, her hopes for the future and what she, a graduate of Bend Senior High School, would say to her "Lava Bear" self.

click to enlarge Bend's Mayor-Elect on Making Bend Better  ▶ [with video]
Nicole Vulcan
Mayor-Elect Melanie Kebler at the Source offices November 9, the day after her win.

While she'll sit on the Bend City Council as a regular councilor for the next two months, after her swearing-in in January, the newly elected council—which also includes newcomers Ariel Méndez and Mike Riley, and re-elected Councilor Barb Campbell—will start out by deciding on their priorities.

"We're going right into setting our goals, and also wanting to appoint someone for the last two years of my term as councilor, so that will be our first big activity as a new council," Kebler said. With Piper's appointment being a contentious issue to this day for some Bend voters—and with many other voters seeing the current council as being responsible for rampant homelessness and housing-cost increases, Kebler said it felt good to see her campaign priorities validated with a win.

"...We care about making housing more affordable, stepping up on homelessness, enhancing our transportation system—these are things that most people every day are thinking about and dealing with in their lives in Bend." - Mayor-Elect Melanie Kebler

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"A wide swath of voters in Bend identified with the values that I was talking about on the campaign trail, as well as the other three candidates who have been elected, that we care about making housing more affordable, stepping up on homelessness, enhancing our transportation system — these are things that most people every day are thinking about and dealing with in their lives in Bend," Kebler said. "I think that we just really spoke to the issues that voters really cared about. And all of us, I know, will continue to be accessible, we'll want to hear from the public, we'll want to have that input and take it into account as councilors—so just looking forward to doing that and getting started on our priorities."

On Wednesday morning, Piper tweeted a congratulations to Kebler for her win—something that no candidate in 2022 can take for granted.

"...Really nice, in a world where there are people who don't accept election results. It seems like here locally everyone's accepted and said 'this is the results' and moving forward," Kebler commented. "And I look forward to working with Chris or anybody else who wants to be passionate about making Bend better and working on the solutions that we need for our challenges."

WATCH: Our interview with Mayor-Elect Melanie Kebler:

Raised in Bend and a graduate of Bend Senior High School, I asked Kebler what it felt like to now be mayor in the town where she grew up, and what she'd say to her young self today. Turns out, she's been working up to this point for a long time.

"It's so funny because at Bend High I was elected to student government, so I don't think my high school self would think this is out of the realm of possibility," Kebler said. "But I would definitely tell myself, keep going and keep stepping up and keep always trying to do what's right."

And as far as what the "hometown mayor" status might mean for the next generation, Kebler encouraged young people to get involved.

"If you care passionately about your community, step up and be a leader. Whatever role that takes. It might take running for office—it might take something else but you know, take action and try to make your community a better place."

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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