Endicott of an Era | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Endicott of an Era

After 14 years as Redmond's mayor, George Endicott looks back at his career and what he hopes for the future of the town

In May, Redmond Mayor George Endicott announced that his long political career serving the Hub City would come to the end once his term ended in January 2023. We caught up with Endicott to learn more about his tenure, what he hopes for the future of Redmond and if he expects to return to some form of public service in the future. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Endicott of an Era
Courtesy City of Redmond
George Endicott became the mayor of Redmond in 2009, after stints on the City Council and planning commission.

Source Weekly: What inspired you to get involved 14 years ago?

George Endicott: Well, actually I started out in the Planning Commission in '04. And then in '05, I was appointed to Council. Then in '06 I ran for Council. I was on Council for two years and then '08 I ran for mayor. So I've been mayor since 2009. What inspired me? I've been involved in public service for many years, it all started way back when I lived in Virginia in the '70s. So, I've been doing this stuff off and on for 45 or 50 years.

I just think the civic government—local government is closest to the people. And I think that's really, as the old cliche goes, where the rubber meets the road. I think you have the most impact, hopefully positive impact, on people when you're closest to them.

SW: Is there anything you're going to miss about being there?

GE: Of course. It was a hard decision, as you can imagine, but I think it's time for the next generation. I love serving, I love people, I love Redmond and all the things that we've accomplished, so I'm going to miss it.

SW: Speaking of accomplishments, when it comes to accomplishments are you most proud of? And are there any regrets from your time serving?

GE: Most proud? Well, there's a couple, of one is the rebuilding of downtown. And that's a big category because it included several items, but the rebuilding of Sixth Street, the rebuilding of Fifth Street, the arch that we put in down there, the addition of Centennial Park, and its expansion, and then of course, City Hall, taking the old high school and making it the new city hall. And all of that I would call sort of civic engagement, you know, sort of a civic center and center of town.

The second one I think, is Hope Playground, where when we finished that back up five or six years ago, it was the largest completely accessible—meaning children with disabilities—the largest accessible playground in the state of Oregon. So I'm really proud of that from an individual project. And then quite proud of what we did downtown to rejuvenate downtown Redmond after the reroute got built.

In terms of regret, the one I regret not getting done was the interchange out at Quarry. We added 960 acres of large-lot industrial south of the town. And we've talked to several potential builders out there. These are large lots, 50 to 200 acres. And now several builders have said, 'Well, we'd go out there if we had a lot better access to the highway.' So, we're in a catch-22 with ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation]. ODOT says, 'Well, until your traffic warrants an interchange, we won't do it.' And the businesses are saying, 'Without the interchange, we won't come.' So I'm between a rock and a hard place on this one and I regret not getting that done.

SW: What in your view should Redmond's next mayor's top priorities be? And do you have any advice for them?

GE: I think a lot of the top priorities are what all of the ones currently running are focused on. Redmond's growing. Growth is one of our biggest issues—maybe our biggest as a broad category. Things like affordable housing and all that fit into that narrative. But in terms of what the city can do, we're going to need that new sewer treatment plant that'll serve us for the next 30 to 50 years. We need the South 97 strip from Veterans Way to Yew Avenue rebuilt, which we just got briefed last meeting from ODOT.

Then with increase in air traffic, the new terminal, that's a $200 million endeavor to expand that terminal. So those are the big three, the sewer treatment plant, the airport terminal and South 97. And now I'll add to that my Quarry interchange.

So I hope the new mayor, whoever it might be, would focus on those items. I'm supporting one individual in particular, because we know that there's no way Redmond is going to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars, that collectively all those projects are going to need. So, we need somebody that knows how to go get money for Redmond, either at the state or federal level. So that's my sage advice is to make sure you know how and who to go see to get funding for Redmond.

SW: And speaking of growth, you have a pretty good case study south of you. What lessons have you learned from Bend's growth? And how did it impact how you govern?

GE: Well, Bend's case is quite a bit different than ours in that, Bend's first of all, a lot larger than we are—we're 36,000 and they're 100,000. But Bend's big growth spurt started back in the early '70s or late '60s, even before we had land use planning. And I don't mean this pejoratively, but a lot of Bend's growth was chaotic.

It wasn't planned, you know, you go here and do this, you put these kinds of zones in because there weren't zones. That was all late '60s, early '70s. And the way they've grown since is sort of an expansion of that early-on development. Redmond lagged Bend by quite a few years. In terms of growth, we were stagnant for a long time, through the '70s and '80s. And so we didn't have that same growth without planning.

When the Oregon land use laws came in in the '70s. And then Redmond started growing. We followed the Oregon land use laws, of course, and hence, our growth has been a lot more... I'll use the word rational. And again, I'm not picking on Bend, I'm just saying. There are reasons why Bend grew the way they grew and there are reasons why Redmond grew the way we grew.

I would say probably in comparing the two, the one thing that Bend did not do that we did. And that was follow some guidance back in the early 2000s about using urban reserves and urban growth boundary as separate endeavors, which we did do. And we were pretty successful in getting our growth models accepted by the state. Bend tried to combine them and it made it very complex. It took them a decade and millions to get theirs done. It took us about three years, and under a million to get ours done. So, you know, it's just a different approach. So, learning from Bend, they followed us in that one. And I kept bugging them saying they should learn from us and they chose not to.

SW: A couple of the candidates for Redmond office, both for council and mayor, have brought up the incidents of the Confederate flag in a Redmond parade and some racist graffiti in Redmond parks. Does Redmond have a racism problem? And how should leaders respond when one of these incidents occurs?

"While I do not like the idea of a Confederate flag in our parades, I also dislike more trying to censor people's free speech." —George Endicott

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GE: The answer is no. I asked that question of Erika McCalpine. She's the [former] head of DEI for Oregon State University at OSU-Cascades and she is also not only the Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion but also [former] head of the Faculty Senate. Very, very bright woman and I asked her that question. And she said Redmond does not have a race problem— what Redmond has an income inequity problem.

And just so you know, I'll just be very blunt, I do not subscribe to wokeism, which I see what a lot of that is. I realize there's a lot of people that claim that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, etcetera. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion; I personally do not think it has a place. However, I'm a veteran, I fought in a war and I fought to protect our rights and that oath, and I'll tell you the First Amendment supersedes personal feelings as far as I'm concerned. And while I do not like the idea of a Confederate flag in our parades, I also dislike more trying to censor people's free speech. So that's where I stand.

SW: How do you plan to spend your retirement? And do you foresee any civic engagement in a different capacity?

GE: I'll answer the second part first. Not right away. I'm going to step aside. My wife and I've decided that there's a great United States to see, and even some parts of the world. So, we're going to start traveling. And I mean, you know, sounds kind of silly, but I want to do that while I'm young enough to do it, before my health fails or something like that. We're going to do a lot of traveling; we're going to go see the United States of America.

It's been a great gig. Being mayor to me has been not only an honor but a pleasure. And over the years, I have kind of a funny attitude about it, in that, when you engage in something like this, and if you have the right attitude about it, the system rewards you if you do it for altruistic reasons. Hopefully, the community recognizes that and rewards you as a consequence.

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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