Betty Bode bows out
Beaverton City Councilor Betty Bode announced that, after more than 15 years on the council, she will not run in the next election.
She plans to finish her term, which concludes in December 2018.
Bode is ill. Health issues — she declined to be specific — turned her world upside-down. She had to move from her long-time, two-story home to a single-level apartment. She requires two oxygen tanks and help from others just to leave the house. She remains an avid and active member of the council — even when she has to participate via telephone.
"I'm on pretty thin ice," she said through tears. "Let's end this with 'thank you' and I will miss you. I want to thank the community for letting me serve you for so long and I'm going to miss it with all of my heart."
Bode's life is a picture of dedication to public service and humanitarianism. Bode, who has never in her life worked for a for-profit entity, said she thinks she was born with the desire to speak for those who don't have a voice and cannot speak for themselves.
Bode's involvement with city government began more than 25 years ago when she answered an ad in a city newsletter seeking volunteers with human rights experience to form a human rights advisory committee, upon which she served from 1993 to 1997.
When Bode first ran for city council in 2002, her commitment to her constituents was a platform of honesty, openness and preparation. She said she never forgot the promises she made and has honored and lived them throughout her service with the city. She has won every election since she first ran.
Though she said she never particularly enjoyed school when she was growing up in Michigan, she went on to earn many degrees in higher education, including a Ph.D.
She spent much of her career teaching nursing at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.
Bode walks the walk and the community knows that, especially the people in need.
"One night after a City Council meeting, I returned to my car to find a homeless man sitting on the hood," she said. "He said, 'Councilor Bode, I figured you'd be out here soon. I'm cold and I have nowhere to sleep tonight.'" Bode asked him when he ate last, took him out to get some food and found a place for him to sleep that night. It took her about an hour-and-a-half to accomplish that task after a long council meeting.
One of Bode's most recent proud moments included her fall 2016 participation in the United States Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony hosted at the Beaverton Main Library, where 50 new citizens were sworn in.
"I really wanted to welcome these human beings to our family," Bode said. People clapped and cried. I prepared for my speech by reviewing 17 speeches made by U.S. dignitaries before I wrote mine. It meant so much to me to be a part of that."
When Bode completed her speech, the representative from the U.S. Immigration Department said, "Why don't you just come with me and give that speech everywhere," Bode recalled. She then met with each new citizen, welcomed them and listened to their stories.
Bode fearlessly often offers opposition to the rest of the City Council. She stands behind finding solutions to the same issues as when she began — affordable housing; quality schools and public education; transportation; balanced land use; arts and library support; and business development.
Bode is critical of the current council and said, "We still have the same affordable-housing issues as the day I began here 15 years ago. People are only given words and no solutions. The council is willing to give mega-amounts of money for a parking garage for an arts center that doesn't even have funding yet while we are leaving people out in the cold."
She also addressed the council's work session idea that suggested a 72-hour notice for people living in vehicles on city streets. "How are people living in their vehicles going to change their lives in 72 hours? We are not taking care of our humans."
Bode said she offers opposition that is often met with silence, but she is unapologetic. Her focus is serving the people in the community she calls home.
"I don't have any idols," she said. "I just get up every morning and do the best I can with what I've got."
"I never perceived any of the work at the city as volunteerism," she said. "I'm just doing what I am called to do. It has never felt like work."
Bode opened the Beaverton Virginia Garcia clinic and ran it for two-and-a-half years while she was on City Council. Since her first day as a councilor, every gift she has been given she donates to the library.
Bode said it is frustrating and difficult to come to the realization that she physically can't do things by herself anymore. She's not used to asking for anyone's help.
"I wish I was younger," Bode said. "I have been doing something with the city for 25 years. I can't imagine what it will feel like not to be connected to the citizens and the staff."
Her seat will be filled in a primary election in May 2018. If no one wins 50 percent or better, the top two candidates go to a runoff in November 2018.
She said she hopes the person who fills her seat will be strong in character, articulate and community and people-driven, because she said, "the work is not done."