BendBend city council picks new mayor; Schenkelberg gives emotional resignation

Bend city council picks new mayor; Schenkelberg gives emotional resignation

Bend city council picks new mayor; Schenkelberg gives emotional resignation

Bend city council picks new mayor; Schenkelberg gives emotional resignation

The Bend City Council appointed Gena Goodman-Campbell as the new mayor following the resignation of former Mayor Sally Russell Wednesday night.

Russell and City Councilor Rita Schenkelberg both stepped down. The mayor also serves as a city councilor, so two council positions need to be filled.

Campbell has served as mayor pro-tem. Councilor Anthony Broadman will now take over the pro-tem role.

People who are interested in filling the open positions can apply online through June 1. If fewer than 10 people apply, the entire council will interview all applicants. If more than 10 apply, a subcommittee of councilors will suggest candidates.

Russell’s departure had been known for a few days. She announced last month she would not seek re-election. Then on May 9, she said she would step down before her term ended. She cited the workload of the past few years including dealing with wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My family sat down a couple weeks ago and had some really serious conversations, and I’m exhausted,” she told Central Oregon Daily News that day. “It’s been a lot of work and it’s been somewhat incessant and never-ending.” 

RELATED: Bend Mayor Sally Russell announces May 18 resignation

Shenkelberg’s announcement was more sudden. The former councilor, who uses the pronouns they and them, revealed their plans to other councilors in an email Tuesday, indicating they could no longer “meet the expectations” of having a full-time job and serving on the council. Shenkelberg added that “the pressure to be the first queer, non-binary, poc” was not sustainable.

Schenkelberg, Campbell give emotion-filled speeches

Near the end of Wednesday’s 5-hour 20-minute council meeting, Schenkelberg thanked people who have supported them, including the indigenous community, people of color and LGBTQ community.

Shenkelberg, in an emotional statement, also called out those who have spoken to them in what they called a degrading manner — including from some who attended the meeting.

“One thing that I realized as I was working, as I was serving the community for the last year-and-a-half is that many parts of me is that many community members are not willing to look at, have conversations with or interact with in a respectful way,” they said. “I am heavily disappointed by that.”

Schenkelberg, who was elected in 2020, said they had been thinking for months about resigning.

“It’s been an honor to serve with you, Rita, and I am so sorry that this is how your term has ended, ” said City Councilor —- . “We’ve learned a lot from you and your voice is so important and I hope you continue to break down barriers.”

Cambell then spoke about how, as a councilor, she receives polite comments even from citizens who disagree with her. The new mayor then fought back tears, explaining she realizes not everyone receives criticism in the same manner.

“And for the last year and a half, I have learned that is only because I am a white, middle-aged woman. And it’s not the same for everyone,” Campbell said. “And that some people are being attacked just for who they are. Not because of what they are trying to do. Not because of ideas that they have.

“It’s real heartbreaking for me having lived here for 30 years,” she said.

RELATED: Bend City Councilor Schenkelberg resigning same day as Mayor Russell

Russell’s farewell

Russell then gave final thoughts about her term as mayor.

“It has been a great experience. It has also been exhausting,” Russell said. She spoke of the importance of trying to balance different voices and values.

“We really need them all to be a whole community,” Russell said.

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