Putnam purchased the Bend Bulletin newspaper in 1910. As publisher he wrote occasional pieces for the paper, as well as pieces for newspapers in Portland, often under pseudonyms. According to his memoirs, he even swept the floors first thing in the morning. In 1912 he moved the newspaper offices and printing plant to a brand new brick building on the corner of Wall and Ohio streets. The newspaper was growing along with the rest of Bend.
Putnam settled into the community. He married his first wife, Dorothy Binney, daughter of the inventor of Crayola crayons, in 1911. They had met on a Sierra Club hike a few years earlier. Their first son, David Binney Putnam, was born in Bend in 1913.
When the mayor of Bend resigned in March 1912, the office remained vacant for several months. Finally, in June, the city council unanimously selected Putnam, only twenty-five years old, as the new mayor. He was twenty-five years old. Among the other business of the council that night were several issues that are still current today: new sewers, new streets and sidewalks, and a ban on the sale of fireworks in the city. In December 1912, Putnam was re-elected mayor with more than twice the number of votes as the other two candidates combined. He served for another year in the office.
In 1915, the Putnam family left Bend for Salem, where Putnam joined the staff of Gov. James Withycombe as one of two secretaries. As the nation entered World War I in 1917, Putnam joined the army and moved to Camp Taylor, Kentucky. Putnam and his family moved to New York when the war was over so he could join his family's publishing house. He sold the Bulletin in 1919. George and Dorothy were both strong personalities, and their marriage was not a happy one. They divorced in 1929. George had met Amelia Earhart in 1928, and they married in 1931. By then, Putnam's Oregon days were far behind him.