By Megan Kehoe

The Bulletin

Richard Robertson wants to see changes in Bend.

He wants to see broken sidewalks fixed. He wants to see more jobs. He wants to see more opportunities for people out of work. And he wants nonprofits to get more funding so they can better support the people who need them.

That’s why Robertson, 39, has decided to run for Bend City Council this November.

Robertson was born with Down syndrome. He has announced his intention to run for Jodie Barram’s council seat this fall. As the other candidates running for the post, he is in the process of circulating a petition and getting signatures. He plans to file his paperwork by the Aug. 26 deadline.

“I’d like to make the city of Bend a better place,” Robertson said Friday. “The city needs to fix things like sidewalks, and clean things up.”

Robertson is originally from Dallas, Texas, and has lived in Bend since 1990. He attended Cascade Middle School and Bend High School. He has worked at Abilitree for 20 years, an organization that empowers people with disabilities by helping them become independent.

In the past few years, Robertson said, he has become involved with organizations that work to better the lives of disabled people in the community.

He said one of his major goals is to help local businesses.

“I want the economy to get better so local businesses can stay open,” he said.

Robertson said he’s always been interested in politics. In his home, he keeps a framed photo of when he met President Barack Obama during a campaign rally in 2008. He also has framed photos of the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. Nearby, he has a photo of him with Kevin Costner — a memento from when Robertson was a cast member in Costner’s film “The Postman.”

Jeremy Coon, a friend who has known Robertson since junior high, is running his campaign.

“He’s truly interested in the community and wants to be part of it,” Coon said. “I think having the chance to run and see what it’s like will really satisfy one of his biggest dreams.”

Coon said ever since he’s known Robertson, he’s spoken of running for office and of one day becoming mayor of Bend.

Coon said despite Robertson’s disabilities, he’s thoughtful and has an understanding of community issues. Additionally, Coon describes Robertson as very caring and pure of heart.

“I think it would be healthy for the City Council to have someone like him there to lighten the atmosphere,” Coon said. “He’d be a breath of fresh air.”

Len Cawthon, who has been Robertson’s Abilitree life-skills trainer for three years, said Robertson would be a good advocate for those who don’t always get represented.

“He doesn’t have an education,” Cawthon said. “But he’s always advocating for people with disabilities in the community. People really invite his help. Sometimes it’s not actually about talking as much as it’s about being there and listening.”

Coon is helping collect the 150 signatures Robertson needs to run for council. Coon said they are far from reaching this number, but he’s planning on holding events in the upcoming weeks to rally support.

At this point, Robertson would likely be running against Casey Roats and Ron Boozell this fall if he gets the necessary signatures.

“I wanted him to see that anyone can run, even if they’re disabled,” said Coon. “He might not win, but there’s always the chance if he runs.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0354,