Longtime Roseburg photographer Gary Leif filed Tuesday to run for Douglas County commissioner, becoming the fourth candidate for the seat Doug Robertson will leave at the end of July.
Owner of Leif Photography, Leif has taken school, wedding and other portraits around the county for 38 years.
He joins a field that already included Big O Tires owner Chris Boice, Roseburg Municipal Court bailiff Dale Rogers and real estate broker Rich Raynor. The filing deadline is Aug. 26.
Leif, 57, said today his top priority as commissioner would be to promote transparent government. He said the commissioners should televise their meetings and do a better job responding to residents who speak at meetings or write letters.
“I think those people deserve answers, at least a dialogue. Let’s talk about it now. Let’s give some dialogue to that person who’s given that energy to come to the meeting to make those remarks,” he said.
Commissioners have said they plan next month to appoint an interim commissioner who will only serve until January and won’t be on the November ballot. The election winner will serve the final two years of Robertson’s term.
Leif said if elected, he would turn over the day-to-day operations of his photo studio to employees. He said he has wanted to run for commissioner for about 10 years, but hasn’t been in a position to do it before. He said having a business to which to return would keep him from having to make politically motivated decisions.
“A lot of people make decisions based on their future in politics, so they might not vote the right way. I’m not going to be that way,” he said.
He said he has been studying the county’s budget but does not yet know where he would make cuts to compensate for dwindling revenues.
He said his studio has done $15 million in business over the past four decades, and he would draw on that experience in managing the county’s funds.
“It’s nothing that I haven’t done in the studio, just the zeroes are different,” he said.
Leif, a Roseburg resident, recently stepped down as president of the Downtown Roseburg Association. During his tenure, the association took over parking enforcement downtown in a bid to make it less punitive and encourage customers to shop there. He also has been an advocate for Roseburg waterfront development and creating a town plaza at the site of the former Rite Aid and Safeway buildings in downtown Roseburg.
He said he opposes the county putting forward the health department building on Madrone Street as a candidate for new state Department of Human Services offices. He said privately owned sites like the old Safeway building should be given priority.
Leif was named Winston First Citizen in 1985. He is a board member of CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and serves on the Roseburg Economic Development and Visitors and Convention Commissions. He is a board member of the Umpqua Business Center and the Small Business Development Center. He has also served on the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce Board and is a past chairman of the Winston-Dillard Fire Board and a former Winston planning commissioner.
Leif said the county needs to be ready to attract businesses that will look to expand as the county’s economy emerges from the “2008 disaster.”
He said the economy, not county government, is to blame for lost businesses like Alcan and Bayliner. Still, he said county and other local governments must reduce red tape if they are to attract new business and encourage growth of current businesses.
“I have been pounding the table for years on that,” Leif said. “I want to be the go-to guy that says, ‘How do we make this happen?’”
State Rep. Tim Freeman in May was elected to fill Commissioner Joe Laurance’s seat. Freeman, who will take office in January, said this morning he does not plan to weigh in on who should join him when he takes office in January.
“I’m not endorsing anybody,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.