Mindy recommended Bill to me by saying, "What inspires me about Bill is that he is willing to say and do what he believes in regardless if it aligns with popular opinion. He is willing to spend time and energy to change Bend so that it is more in alignment with values he holds in high regard. He is able to do this with a balance of grace and assertiveness that is rarely mastered." And that says it quite nicely. While I don't know Bill as Mindy does, I was completely impressed by how matter-of-factly he says things like this, "I'm pretty compassionate and filled with endless hope and energy. It's a blessing." Bill has a level of self-awareness that we could all aspire to. And I think we are all much better off for having him as a community leader.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I think that Who are you? is a complicated question. I could describe characteristics that are reflective of who I am, but I'm not - I guess at it's core, I'm not sure people know who they are. You can see your impact on the world. I can tell, for instance, that I'm decisive. But to actually know who I am, there's some people that would say, Can an eye see itself? Or, Can a knife cut itself? No, but you can observe the consequences of those particular things and get reflection from the world around you as to who or what you might be, but I think it's incredibly difficult for a person to be able to objectively see themselves.
You know, the common party question is, So what do you do? My wife took me one of these mother-child gathering type things and they decided it would be a good idea to invite the husbands and I don't like going to social events like that (laughs). The husbands always ask each other, So what do you do? Or, Where do you work? So, someone asked me where I worked and, at the time, I was living in Portland and I said, I work between 5th and 6th and Market and Clay. (Laughs) And that's not at all what he intended but I really just didn't want to fish out the tired answer of, Well, this is my occupation. I'm not sure it properly defines people.
How would you describe yourself?
I'm a person with a lot of passion. I care for other people deeply. I have a kind of almost an endless fount of resourcefulness and energy. Internally I can feel almost the energy of life, so to speak. Kind of that thing that keeps everybody alive and gives you hope again when things are at their worst, or whatever. I'm just kind of almost abundantly filled with that kind of energy. And I can kind of feel it pulse through me, so that makes me a very energetic person and a very resourceful person. I can be highly supportive of other people. My personal background is, you know, I had a lot of difficulties in my family and things when I was younger and come from a pretty modest means, overall. So I know what that's like and that also makes me want to pitch in for the underdog and drew me into politics and for some of the things I'm doing right now. I'm pretty compassionate and filled with endless hope and energy. It's a blessing. (Laughs) And I can't really say that it's anything that I ever developed or intentionally sought; it's just, you're born a particular way and you fulfill your design.
What motivates you?
There are certainly things that push people's buttons. And everybody has those things. When you're being annoyed by something, they typically are something that's revealing about yourself. Like there's some truth that you know and your own personal truth is being violated and it's highly irritating to you. So, I'm not really one to be, for the most part, driven by those irritations. If I experience an irritation or something that really kind of upsets me in some particular way, the one thing that I do know is that somewhere inside of me, whether I'm conscious to it or not, there is some truth that is speaking to me. It doesn't mean it's the only truth, but at least it's a truth that I know and can sense. There's something wrong with this situation that's in contrast with that. Or I have an expectation that the world is gonna be some way and I'm not accepting the way the world really is. And, in a more general sense, every day is a day, no matter what the situation, to be filled with gratitude. Just for the experience of being alive to experience simple things like the sun shining on your back or the pleasure of having kids or sometimes, quite frankly, even the difficult experiences where my buttons are being completely pushed and I'm just kind of overwhelmed by the situation and being disturbed is an opportunity and a challenge, really, to discover my own personal truth in the situation and to explore and find out who I am. In some ways even the difficult situations are like a little puzzle that was designed just for me to tell me how special I am in the world and who I really am. There's a lot of traditions that are like that. Nelson Mandela sat in his prison cell for, what was it, 27 years or something, and was filled with joy during that entire time or most of it - when he could remain aware. I think the inherent state of being is a sense of gratitude or well-being that the world is really a benevolent and good place overall, even when we can't always see it. And if you're not seeing it, then I would say, Oh, well, you're just a little bit lost in your expectations for the way the world should be. If you could let go of that a little bit, you would really see the true state of nature, which is that the world's really a grand place.
Would you also attribute that to you are who you are born, as you referred to before, or is that something that you've practiced?
I think that that's true for all people. I think that people have different vantage points and lenses that they look at the world with. So, for me, it might be that I'm filled with kind of a vibrancy of life. For someone else, they might be deeply touched by their emotional experiences in the world and their personal relationships become very sentimental. Or there might be some other people that are just inherently curious about the world and there's this intellectual spark that just kind of arises within them. So I think people are born with kind of different little slices or prisms or views on reality that says, Oh, this is what's special. And for some people, it's the act of curiosity is just this wonder that might give them gratitude. And for me, it's a little bit different; it is the raw kind of aliveness that I'm filled with. But I think all people can experience that; most people do not, but everyone is able to. I don't mean to be evasive.
I've studied various kinds of religious traditions. I happen to be Catholic and my spirituality's important to me. But there's actually a lot of commonality among the world's religions and this sense that the world is an inherently good place and they kind of take different avenues towards that same path. I think it really speaks to something that's common in human beings as well as the spiritual traditions are just pointing to kind of a commonness among all of humanity and the things that are good for people and the way that we can operate in the world. I've done a fair bit of study on that. There's different levels of awareness that people typically have and most of the world lives in a state of what I call unconscious incompetence, which is kind of not realizing that they're being terribly habitual and maybe suffering because they have expectations the world should be a certain way and it's not; it's very disturbing to them, but they don't realize it and so they keep applying the same kind of tool over and over and over again in a situation. For me, it might be I get angry and forceful. You keep applying it; you don't really realize that the problem is I'm using the same tool for every situation. At some point, you start to realize, and most people at mid-life will start to say, Well gosh, I'm not doing something right because there's a lot of suffering in here and it doesn't always have to be this way. And usually people in their forties will start to get a glimpse of that. And if you can confront that fear and let go of this self definition that you have that I am my anger or I am the person who knows everything or whatever your self identification is. If you can let go of some of that and stop relying so intensively on how you define yourself and your ego, you'll arrive at a point of conscious competence where you start to identify with more of your true nature. If you keep with that, you'll arrive at a point of unconscious competence.
Not many people make it to that, but you can experience this. I have a friend who rides motorcycles - dirt bikes - and he's been doing it since he was like eight. And so you see him when he goes and rides a motorcycle - it terrifies me - and it's man and machine. He knows exactly how that motorcycle's gonna move and he doesn't give any thought to it whatsoever. And you can see people doing this in sports sometimes, too. The real experts at a sport or the people that are the highest performers, it's a thoughtless exercise because they are just one with that activity and they are expressing their talent. And people can do that with their basic goodness, too, but it takes a fair bit of observation to be able to do that. I can't say that I can do that all the time (laughs), certainly. Or even a majority. Gosh, if I could do it five percent of the time then I'm quite thankful.
Given all that, what does community mean to you?
I think that people are inherently social creatures. We need one another. And we all have specialized talent. At a very personal level, people need love; kids, adults, spouses, neighbors. I guess I want, for myself, I want to contribute to that sense of community or wholeness for people. It is one of the reasons that I offer some of the service I have now. Some people say, you know, all those politicians... I don't know why they would say this on City Council you make $200 a month, but somehow you're in it for yourself. What exactly am I in for myself? (Laughs) It's not the pay; it costs me a lot more than $200 a month to be a councilor. And I don't have any business interests in town. I have my employees, but all my customers live someplace else, and so I really have nothing to gain from that kind of thing. You can't take campaign contributions for your own use; that's illegal. There's really no benefit there. It really is just kind of a love of your neighbor and a willing to give back. It's really, really easy for me, almost no matter who I bump into, and even if I strongly disagree with the person, I almost always can see a lovable person in somebody else. And whenever I can see the core of somebody else through their face or eyes or whatever it might be, it provokes a very strong giving response from myself, as well. And I automatically want to help them. When you come into contact with someone in a real way, there's almost just a basic human response to a desire to help that person out. I come from an incredibly humble background, but I've been given a lot in my life, too. I have four wonderful kids and a wife - I've been married for 21 years - and many business acquaintances and best friends. I've had this business for 20 years and at least four of the people I've worked with 15 years or longer - just my best friends in the world. My financial needs are satisfied. I get to explore my talents. So much has been given to me; more than I have expected or dreamed possible. And that creates a duty inside of me also to give back to these other lovely people that I see around the world. I kind of see myself as a part of that fabric to pull people back together and to help them build things.
What is one's role in the fight against social injustice? Do you have thoughts on the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots? And maybe some sort of explanation for the greed and also some sort of resolution?
One of the biggest issues that I've taken on in the service that I've had on the City Council, for instance, is really the disparity between the east side of Bend and the west side of Bend. The incomes are literally double on the west side than they are on the east side. I actually happen to live pretty close to the river on the west side; it's where I moved to 20 years ago. At the same time, I can look at the way a lot of people live in our community and say, Oh, I was a kid just like that kid at one point. And I know just what it's like. When I was 10, I had a newspaper route and would do odd jobs around the community and I had to lend money to my parents so that we could afford things like rent and groceries and things. No, I have a great deal of empathy. I know exactly what that's like. And just because someone has been afforded privileges in life or whatever or however I got to this point doesn't take away the empathy or concern or compassion for situations like that. Yeah, I'm terribly concerned. The ability to be able to see the inherent goodness in people, too, makes you - it's really difficult to get hung up on the surface-level things of whether it's someone's race or their religion or even they're really angry at you right now, if you're a person who can actually see the goodness in a person a little bit behind that, it's kind of hard not to have compassion and empathy towards people. And so I use that as a resource. It doesn't mean that it has to be the typical types of social injustice; it could be that you're a lower middle income person where both parents are working and the kids are having to take care of themselves because everyone's pretty darn busy just trying to make ends meet and the cost of living is rising in Bend around you and you don't really understand why and it's a great deal of change and that's kind of alarming and my salary isn't rising as fast, and I'm a dad or a mom and it's really hard for me to make ends meet, and I'm really stressed and don't understand the change that's occurring to me. And that makes people frightened. So I can be quite empathetic to social justice issues like that.
My brother is mentally ill and my wife's brother was schizophrenic and killed himself and that gives me another sense of compassion for people that they don't often see. A lot of times people will see me and say, Oh, he's a software CEO, what would he know? You should stop and question your judgment before or you should pull back a little bit until you know some of the scene. I tend to be a little bit conservative but I tell some of the people that I work with on the Council or other places, Oh, don't judge too quickly 'cause you might find me as an ally sometimes to help. 'Cause I am incredibly empathetic; I do know the pain and suffering in some of these situations. And I'm willing to give my time, which is one of my most precious resources. And I've done that consistently - different volunteer opportunities. No, I'm terribly concerned, actually, about it. My work even that I do here at the office - we're an IT company - but I've intentionally targeted our hires so that we could hire people that are starting in IT and perhaps develop their abilities so that they could realize potential in themselves that they didn't realize they maybe had. People who maybe weren't destined for an IT career, but maybe were kind of smart, they just weren't properly supported or educated or maybe some life circumstance - they were born into a situation that was too chaotic for them to really go get a four-year degree or whatever it might be. You know, we might be able to help someone like that and invest in a way and change the trajectory of their lives. And so we do that even at the organization. So, depending on how one's defines social justice, I'm actually quite concerned.
I keep trying to think of how that gap is going to diminish and the only thing I can think of is that we just have to help each other.
Perhaps. I'm not sure. I'm a little alarmed at the state of our society right now. We're incredibly individualistic. It's very focused on the self instead of the community and I think that's harmful. We kind of have swung the pendulum from the great society - you know the World War II generation, where it was really all about community and they built great things for community - we've swung the pendulum so far to the individualistic side that it is just about me and what I want and my personal desires and I think that's unhealthy for society. The other part is many of our social institutions, and maybe it's a consequence of it, are kind of breaking down and they're not listening or they're not perceived to be listening. People scream at the City Council, What are you guys doing? How could you do this? All this kind of stuff. When things are happening to people that they don't understand, they become afraid. And when the overall system appears not to listen to them, whether that's true or not, when it doesn't seem to listen to them, then that fear turns into anger. That's what happened this election cycle. It's not the first time that that happened. That pendulum has actually been and that anger has been welling up and because it's not being met with actual change and solutions, it's getting bigger. And that's kind of scary, I think, for our country, for perhaps the globe, certainly even for our little town of Bend. That's kind of alarming. At some point, you wonder, Well, unquenched anger, where does lead to? It's not unheard of in a society to have a revolution. And we think our society is stable and I don't suggest that we're at that point now, but maybe we should start becoming concerned about the level of anger and disparity and that kind of... maybe before it gets too crazy, we should put on the brakes and become a little bit more civilly-minded. And it's been on both sides of it. Like, I described myself as being conservative, but the whole thing with Clinton years ago of impeaching him started swinging that pendulum and then you get Nancy Pelosi calling the President, George Bush at the time, stupid. It's just incredibly uncivil dialogue. If there's 250 million people that think one thing and 250 million think something else, we're probably not all idiots. There's probably just different perspective (laughs) and you know, that kind of thing. And we need to have that civility so we can have discourse and come to some kind of agreements and be committed to one another. It's alarming right now. I don't become discouraged on a personal level - I can still wake up and feel the sunshine - but I do worry about where things are heading for our country. It doesn't have to be this way.
Well, what do you propose as a fix? What do you wish for the future?
Typically in a situation, I can play a role of fundamentally changing whatever it is. There's some people that can go into a situation and they're good at the incrementally building things. So this could be just a business problem or it could be my service on Council or whatever. For myself, the personal role that I can play, is that I can often times reset a system. And sometimes, to reset a system requires a certain amount of pressure. And sometimes you have to break the system down a little bit to say there is no incremental path from this point to where we need to go. We're going to have to reset a little bit and start to rebuild that structure. And so, my personal strategy often times is to expose the truth - at least as best I can see it, which isn't perfect, but to the best that I'm able to see it. I've gone to closed-door meetings and people are saying these things behind closed doors and I've seen those same people in public situations and they say these other set of things. There's a fair bit of deceit going on here and that's going to lead to problems. People get mad when I say that sort of thing and it does cause the system to break down and they start not trusting me; Can I tell you the secret things? And my position would be to say well, we just need to let the objective truth out if that's the way you feel. We need to have this out in the public so we can actually have dialogue about whatever the issue is. Then we can start to work with one another. If it's all hidden and apart, it's not gonna work. So I think, actually, a lot more candor about the that way people feel would be beneficial. Some of the issues are very sensitive, whether it's prejudices, whether it's about race or gender or whatever. There's a lot of prejudice out there, but not talking about these kinds of things will make it worse. People are going to have ideas that anger us or are offensive in some particular way, and we have got to be able to have dialogue or we will pull apart. People start saying things behind closed doors differently than they say things in the public and the chasm will get wider if we continue that trend. I think the disinfectant of truth... I actually work with the media a lot - I'l share information with them specifically for the purpose of you know, we just need to get it all out there. We should not be afraid of the truth. You might get people that are angry and that's okay; conflict is not something necessarily that's a horrible thing. It's just a normal part of life. People have different backgrounds and perspectives. We'll be better off if we just have an open, candid dialogue about the things that are going on. And so I think that's really a big part of it.
For myself, I tend to be an instigator in those types of changes but I'm not always the guy who's gonna have every bit of the solution. Once we start getting the system of okay, we're starting to reset a little bit and we're moving forward in a better direction, for me, that's the part where I need to have personal awareness and say, Oh, I need to step back a little bit. There's probably some other leader in a situation like this that can take the pieces that I've been able to kind of break down a little bit and pull us back together as a group to paint a better picture forward. It was only possible because I was able to break down the system a little bit, but someone else can then take it the next step. So, in a generalized way, that's the role that I usually play. Let's reset. Let's find a better foundation. Let's figure out what's really going on here. And then maybe to hand the torch off to people who can say, Okay, well now we've got these pieces, now how do we put them back together again for a better solution in the end?
Do you have anything else that you'd like to add?
I don't think so. I've been well-trained. At the City, that's the first thing they said, Whenever they ask you, "Do you have anything else to say?", you should say, "No!" (Laughs) You won't add anything else meaningful.
When and where can people engage with the City Council?
The City Council in Bend is pretty open. If you want to meet with a city councilor, you can just email them. If somebody wants to speak with the City Council during the public comments, I actually find those some of the most moving ones; where the ordinary person, not the lobbyist, not the paid staffer, not the nonprofit executive director who always comes and talks to us, just the everyday kind of people who never talk to the Council, those are the stories that I like to hear. It tells me what the community's really thinking. But I respond almost to every single email that I receive from somebody and I get a lot. We do have councilor office hours - they can come and talk to us. I find that people's lives are pretty busy these days... so I actually try to get out and talk to people as much as I can. I'll go to retirement homes. If people have a book group or something that they want to invite me or another councilor to, they should invite us. We're kind of at the in-between size where it's not so big that the City Council is unreachable. You can bump into your city councilors anywhere, in the grocery store or any other place - it's only 90,000 people. It's incredibly open. That's a gift. I disagree with my fellow councilors sometimes, but I've complimented them all - every last one of them loves Bend. I just have no doubt about that at all even when I strongly disagree with them. And they're working just as hard as I am to do what they think is the right thing to do.
How about the actual meetings?
Every first and third Wednesdays - 7 pm. We always start with the pledge of allegiance and then we take public comments. And you can speak for three minutes and say what's on your mind. It's at City Hall in downtown.