Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, Municipal Judge Gwen Moore swore in the councilors remotely. Some of the councilors’ younger family made surprise appearances, which provided the evening some levity.
“That was way better than without family!” Councilor Barb Campbell said smiling. Mayor Sally Russell then started the meeting on a hopeful, but honest note about the challenges facing the Council in the coming year.
“It’s a new year and new opportunities,” Russell said. “We’ve had a tumultuous election season in our country, and we’ve also had some moments in our community. It’s really a relief to get to this point, and to be all working together. There have been a lot of transitions coming out of 2020—including pervasive damage to our economy, the never-ending struggle to achieve social justice and the over-whelming tragic specter of COVID-19.
“But we are here because our country and our city depend on democracy, and the solid process of democracy taking place in our community and in our country,” Russell said. “And tonight, the gathering together and swearing in of this new council is also a celebration of democracy.”
Before turning the meeting’s focus to the new members, Russell asked for comments from returning Councilor Barb Campbell and exiting Mayor Pro-Tem, Bruce Abernethy.
“I’m just thrilled and so excited about our new members of City Council,” Campbell said. “I am so happy to see that after decades and decades of Councils that were mostly men, now we have mostly women, which I think is only fair.”
Abernethy, who served on the Council for 12 years, offered parting advice for the new members: Don’t stay “responsive and dependent on your supporters” now that the election is over.
"It is really on us to answer one question: How can we make this the greatest city to live for everybody? The purity of the mission is simple. It’s profound, but I want you to know we take it very seriously.” -Anthony Broadman
“I think we’ve seen what’s happened with that, certainly at the national level,” Abernathy said. “The sooner you can move beyond campaigning mode and into governing mode and really find ways of learning and meeting different people and different businesses and organizations and different perspectives in the community—it will be a learning experience that will really help broaden and put us on good stead going forward.”
Each of the new councilors then offered comments.
Broadman spoke to his goal “to connect our city—not just as a community, but physically” with progressive transportation initiatives and his goal of “ensuring the promise of our city” is available to everyone.
“I’m really proud to be a steward for the land we call Bend,” Broadman said. “This position as I see it is pretty simple. Once you get to tonight—along with the incredible staff of the City of Bend who do the hard work of running this city—it is really on us to answer one question: How can we make this the greatest city to live for everybody? The purity of the mission is simple. It’s profound, but I want you to know we take it very seriously.”
Kebler expressed excitement about the celebratory day for the City of Bend, but also called it a “very dark day for our nation” due to the “insurrection” at our nation’s Capitol.
“The image of a confederate flag being proudly waved in the halls of our Senate chamber today—an image that made me sick to look at—is a result of white America’s failure to confront the fact that the creation of our nation and our state that we are in right now is rooted in white supremacy. We have to dismantle it at every level.”
She says she looks forward to helping Bend in that work.
“I believe that Black Lives Matter, and that saying so is not a political statement, but it’s a human rights statement,” she said.
With her time, Perkins asked the people of Bend to hold her accountable. “If I’m not doing my job listening to all the people of the city,” Perkins said. “If I’m missing key information. If I’m not responding to you. If I’m speaking from a place of privilege and not seeing the reality, hold me accountable.” But she did ask for “one small thing” in return.
“Do it with some kindness,” she said. “I promise to treat you with respect and listen to you. Please do the same with me. I think we could all do with some kindness these days.”
She also added sentiments regarding her stance on inclusivity.
“And because it needs to be said by every single person that looks like me, Black Lives Matter,” Perkins said.
“As a queer person of color, imagining being an elected official was not even a dream. And so to be sitting in this seat and to be working with humans who see me, and humans who are willing to take accountability and work towards being more equitable and saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ very clearly makes my heart sing." -Rita Schenkelberg
Like her fellow councilors, Schenkelberg thanked several people—including her ancestors and those who lived here before.
“I offer gratitude to this land that we stand on right now, and the indigenous people who don’t get to live here right now,” Schenkelberg said. “They are the foundation, and they’re the reason we are here. I offer gratitude to my ancestors because they made sure my butt made it in this seat.”
She then closed the roundtable with a unique perspective as the only queer person of color on Council.
“As a queer person of color, imagining being an elected official was not even a dream,” she said. “And so to be sitting in this seat and to be working with humans who see me, and humans who are willing to take accountability and work towards being more equitable and saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ very clearly makes my heart sing. It makes me so excited to be sitting here and to learn and to lead.”
The new councilors join Mayor Sally Russell and Councilors Barb Campbell and Gena Goodman-Campbell. Councilors and the Mayor serve four-year terms.