Bend Mayor Sally Russell announced she's resigning from the position after the Bend City Council's next regular meeting May 18. Russell already said she wouldn't seek reelection at an April 14 press conference, but is opting to leave before her term expires at the end of December, citing exhaustion after several tumultuous years in government.
"My job as Mayor has affected me and my family in numerous ways, as we have — just like you — navigated such huge social, environmental and economic pressures and the effects of a pandemic. Fires, smoke, heat domes, homelessness," Russell wrote. "So many historic changes in such a short time. I am simply exhausted. It is in my own — and my family's — best interest to leave at the conclusion of May's Council meetings."
Russell assumed the role in 2018 after six years as a city councilor, becoming Bend's first woman mayor and first directly elected mayor since 1923. Three people have already announced they intend to run for the position in the November election: Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler, former Bend City Councilor Chris Piper and the President of the social justice group Central Oregon Peacekeepers, Luke Richter.
Russell's acted as a moderate in her decades-long stint in local government, first on the liberal end of a conservative City Council and now as a moderate to a largely progressive one. She pointed to accomplishments in passing the 2020 transportation bond and fostering development in Bend's central district.
There have also been controversies during Russell's tenure. She's gotten backlash for advocating for the appointment of Chris Piper to the City Council seat she vacated to become mayor, and for her response to a 2020 protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement detaining two local men.
The vacated seat must be filled by the City Council within 30 days of her resignation. Bend's charter says city councilors must be considered first, but if all decline the position, anyone living in Bend can be appointed. Voters will decide the next mayor this November; Russell hasn't endorsed anyone for the role yet, but every other City Councilor came out in support of Kebler last month.
Russell thanked city employees and the community of Bend in the press release, and wished the city council luck in the future.
"Every person in our community needs your strong leadership more than ever," she wrote.