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Bend City Council appoints new councilor with real estate connections

The appointed city councilors will take their seats at Bend City Hall, pictured above, after other members selected them from an interview process that drew nearly 40 applications.
Bradley W. Parks
/
The appointed city councilors will take their seats at Bend City Hall, pictured above, after other members selected them from an interview process that drew nearly 40 applications.

The Bend City Council is once again at full strength, after filling a vacant slot Wednesday. The council selected Megan Norris to fill a seat left open when Melanie Kebler won the election in November to become Bend’s new mayor.

Norris, 44, said she moved to Bend from the Sacramento area in 2019. She was born in rural Mexico, before arriving in the United States as a child. She works as a planning manager for Hayden Homes, one of Central Oregon’s largest and most well-known developers.

Norris previously worked with the Bend Chamber of Commerce advocating for increased child care providers. She said child care and affordable housing are two issues she plans to address during her time in office.

“Excited to bring a diverse voice to the council and I’m excited to get to work,” Norris said.

In her interview, councilors asked Norris about potential conflicts of interest, since Hayden Homes could have projects that come before the City Council. Norris said she would recuse herself if such a situation arose.

“There’s a potential for a few projects for that to happen,” she said. “I’m confident that there’ll be no issues and that I can navigate that.”

Her employer, along with other real estate developers, continues to play an active role in local politics. Developers bankrolled a number of candidates that advocated a sprawling, single-family home approach to that crisis. Those candidates lost significantly to councilors who favored denser housing.

Hayden Homes, for example, donated $40,000 to the Central Oregon Small Business PAC, which in turn gave huge sums to local conservative candidates.

The City Council is not Norris’ first foray into politics — she ran unsuccessfully for the Bend-La Pine School Board in 2021.

Thirteen residents submitted applications to fill Kebler’s vacant position and councilors chose four to interview Wednesday. Bar owner John Heylin, construction manager Bryan Brown and local activist Greg Delgado all made their pitch to the council but were ultimately passed over.

The other six councilors voted using secret ballots and did not discuss their preferences before voting. All six voted for Norris on the first ballot.

It’s the third time in seven months the council has had to fill a vacancy among its ranks. Councilors Mo Mitchell and Stephen Sehgal secured appointments in June following the sudden resignations of Sally Russell and Rita Schenkelberg.

Mitchell and Sehgal did not run for reelection in November.

Norris will have two years to serve before she will have to run for reelection.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Joni Land