Lookingglass landscape contractor Dallas Heard has announced he will seek the District 2 seat in the Oregon House of Representatives currently filled by Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg.
Freeman announced earlier this month he plans to run for a Douglas County commissioner seat and will not seek a third two-year term in Salem. Subsequently, Commissioner Joe Laurance, who holds the seat Freeman is seeking, said he would not run for a third four-year term.
“This is something I want to have an impact on,” said Heard, 29.
If Heard were in the Legislature now, he would be the youngest member among the 60 representatives and 30 senators. Rep. John Davis of Wilsonville is more than a year older.
Heard, a 2003 graduate of Roseburg High School, said he first got interested in politics during the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. Heard was 15 at the time.
“I couldn’t vote yet, but, man, I watched those debates and listened to the aftermath of the vote with the Florida recount. I was on my knees begging God that it would go the way I wanted it to. I’d say that was the first time I really got dialed in and started paying attention,” Heard said. “It was just so important to me that the right guy won the presidency. Nothing against Al Gore, but I thought George W. was the right guy.”
Heard isn’t intimidated by his age and the fact he could face candidates who are older than him in the Republican primary in May 2014 and in the general election in November if he advances. Politics runs in the family and he’s looked to two relatives for inspiration.
Former County Commissioner Joyce Morgan, who served 16 years before leaving office at the end of 2004, is Heard’s great-aunt. Current Commissioner Susan Morgan, who was formerly married to Joyce Morgan’s son Kipp, is a cousin by marriage.
Heard, whose wife Hanna is expecting their first child this summer, has served on the Callahan Planning Advisory Committee and the Lookingglass Rural Fire District board. He said being on those boards has been invaluable in giving him experience on a public body and working to make the community better.
Heard and other candidates will not be able to register for the May 2014 primary until this fall. However, he has registered his campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s Office and has begun collecting contributions.
This month, he took in $17,250 and spent $5,430. Heard Family Llc., the business operated by his parents Dick and Letha Heard, donated $8,750. Letha Heard donated $5,000, while Park Avenue Turf and Midway AG Rentals, both of Sebastopol, Calif., gave $1,250 apiece. Great Northern Trailers Works of Sutherlin donated $1,000.
“I don’t know many people that are his age that share his passion for government, his enthusiasm for life in general, self-employment and raising a family,” said supporter Chris Boice, owner of Big O Tires of Roseburg. “He has a lot of responsibility and is pretty squared away. I think he’s going to be an example for young people and I think that’s fantastic, too.
If elected, Heard said he would work to streamline regulations and make it easier for businesses to get started.
When Heard expanded his business from growing sod through his Emerald Lawns company to becoming a landscape contractor, he said there were mountains of paperwork to go through and he needed an extensive background in plant biology and other areas to pass a series of state-required tests even though there were no textbooks or classroom training to teach him what he needed to know.
Someone who doesn’t gain the proper knowledge working in the field wouldn’t last long in business, Heard said. He said he thinks that’s a better test than to make it more difficult for someone to enter the business, he said.
“I want to see more people having more choices,” Heard said. “Some government is necessary, but I’m just a limited government kind of guy.”
He said he also believes state agencies are given too much power through administrative rules written by bureaucrats rather than through laws passed by the Legislature. That also makes it hard on businesses, he said.
Heard said he has been inspired by Freeman’s work in the legislature. He said Freeman works hard but always makes time to listen to constituents.
“Tim is one of the reasons I’m so interested in running for his seat,” Heard said. “He always works to make you feel good and to know he’s listening to you.”
Heard said he is committed to making the Legislature a less divisive body. While members of the two major parties come to the table with different philosophies, there’s no reason for lawmakers to be at each other’s throats, he said.
“We spend too much time putting people down. This infighting has to stop,” said Heard, who said his parents instilled in him powerful lessons to be civil to everyone. “I can do that by leading by example.”
Along those lines, he said he would not criticize other candidates who may enter the race, but will focus on what he sees as his positive attributes for getting elected.
“Whether I win or lose, I know I’m qualified and a lot of people know I’m qualified,” Heard said. “It’s not just because of me. It’s because of who raised me and who groomed me and from there I had to do what I would with it.”
You can reach reporter John Sowell at 541-957-4209 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.