(Updated: adding video, comments from Kebler, Riley, and Mendez, Chris Piper concedes mayor race)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Bend City Council is seeing some big changes following election night. As of midday Wednesday, Councilor Melanie Kebler held a 10-point lead over Chris Piper in the race for mayor, making her the new mayor-elect. NewsChannel 21 spoke with Kebler on Wednesday about what this means to her.
“It’s just really exciting to think about,” Kebler said. “I went to high school here, I grew up here, I love this city so much and now to be able to step into this role — it’s just such an honor, and I’m so thankful.”
While voters’ ballots postmarked by Tuesday have a week to arrive and be counted, Kebler declared victory on Twitter Wednesday, thanking all who worked so hard on her behalf.
“I can’t wait to get to work as our next mayor,” she said in her post.
Candidate Chris Piper congratulated her in a reply, saying, “You have served the Bend community as councilor with energy and commitment.”
“I and all Bendites look forward to you working collaboratively and know per your campaign message that you’ll help shape the future of Bend that we both call home,” Piper continued. “Thank you for your service and wish you well in this new journey as our mayor.”
The makeup of city council changes as well.
Barb Campbell was strongly leading the race for a two-year council seat, while newcomers Ariel Mendez and Mike Riley will be new city councilors, come January.
Kebler, Mendez, and Riley all agree on their top priorities — addressing homelessness, affordability and transportation.
“We’ve got to continue to work really hard on our housing crisis,” Kebler said. “That’s been a priority the past two years, and it’s going to be a priority moving forward.”
The current city council is working on refining a camping code, which Kebler says will be finalized before the January council turnover.
Mike Riley shared his thoughts on housing affordability.
“Affordability is a really big deal,” Riley said. “They’re all connected back to growth really, so how is this community growing in a way that works for people that makes it a livable place for people?”
Ariel Mendez shared the same sentiment.
“It’s really hard to afford to live here, so that connects us to planning for the future,” Mendez said.
Planning for the future, they say, brings transportation to the top of the list.
“The transportation system — making sure that we are investing in the system as a whole, so we can move cars, but also walking and biking are really important,” Riley said.
Kebler says the next steps include a goal-setting process, where she’ll meet with council and the city manager to create a strategy for tackling these and other issues.
“I’m very excited to work with this council,” Kebler said. “I think all of our values align, and I think our values align with the people of Bend, as the voting results said last night — so really excited to get started and work on some great things for the city.”
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