The Douglas County Board of Commissioners appointed Dan Loomis as interim Douglas County clerk on Wednesday.
Loomis replaces Patricia Hitt, who retired Sept. 30, before her term was up.
The county clerk oversees local elections and vital records. Loomis will serve in the position until a permanent clerk, to be chosen by voters in 2020, takes office in January 2021.
That might end up being him as well. Currently, Loomis is also the only person who has filed to run for clerk in the election.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Douglas County and all the citizens here. This is a great county,” he said shortly after being selected.
Loomis said the Oregon Constitution called for the clerk to be the very first county official to be installed.
“I’m excited to be in that role, and I’m excited to work with all the great professional subject matter experts that are downstairs there in the county clerk’s office,” he said.
He said he would lean on their expertise to help him climb the steep hill of training as county clerk. He said this will be a good transition step if he ends up being elected for the permanent post.
“What better way to become the elected county clerk than to have 15 months of training in doing it?” he said.
Loomis was sworn in by South County Justice of the Peace Machelle Briggs-Mayfield at a brief ceremony Wednesday afternoon, during which Loomis said he was inspired to become involved after a legislator mentioned the idea of a second service after military service. He said after that he decided he shouldn’t simply retire and do nothing.
Loomis currently serves on the Douglas County Parks Advisory Board and is chairman of the Douglas County Veterans Service Office Advisory Committee.
He grew up in Douglas County, graduated from Roseburg High School in 1985, and currently lives in Umpqua.
He is a workforce development manager at Umpqua Economic Development Partnership and an Army veteran who served as an aircraft mechanic and rose through the ranks to become a chief warrant officer. He has also been a government aircraft accident investigator.
Loomis launched a campaign for Douglas County commissioner in 2018 but dropped out partway through the race and threw his support to Tom Kress, who ultimately won the election.
Kress was not in attendance Wednesday, but the two other commissioners, Tim Freeman and Chris Boice, voted unanimously to appoint Loomis as county clerk.
Loomis was chosen from three applicants, all of whom were interviewed in a public meeting last week. The other two applicants are both current employees in the Douglas County Clerk’s Office.
One, Rosemarie Wess, is the chief deputy clerk. She had been mentioned by Hitt as her preferred replacement. Wess has said she does not intend to run in the election.
Wess said Wednesday afternoon she was very disappointed by the commissioners’ decision, and she has tendered her resignation.
“I’m extremely disappointed. It has nothing to do with the candidate. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job once he gets into the office,” she said.
She wished Loomis success, but said she was surprised that neither of the experienced candidates was selected.
The other applicant, Andrew Taylor, is the office manager.
Taylor said he felt it was important to make sure Loomis gets the training he needs to do the job. He said he didn’t have much to say about the commissioners’ decision and wasn’t certain yet if he would file to run in the election.
“I think that’s a little too new to call at this point. I think now the important thing is to make sure that Dan gets the training he needs in order to do the job as interim,” he said. “It is what the board chose.”
Boice said during Wednesday’s meeting that he was grateful to have more than one choice and that all three applicants were great. He said he has had a great working relationship with Hitt, Wess and others in the clerk’s office. But he also said it was good to have a transparent process and open the position up to all applicants.
“I think it was important to see who might be out there who’s not only willing to, but wants to serve in this position. And also again to ultimately at the end of the day have the voters decide who they have.”
He said he considered the transition in the office, the specialized nature of the position, and the fact that the person serving as clerk needs expertise in vital documents and elections.
“Having folks down there who understand all of the responsibilities and the processes to do that is important, and having that knowledge transitioning through an election is also important. So in my mind, I think the best possible transition is one where we have some institutional knowledge that’s going to stay through the election,” he said.
He said Loomis has a great resume, including a lot of civic engagement and leadership and management skills and an interest in serving as clerk long term.
Freeman said, ultimately, the voters will decide who fills the role. He said he was comfortable with Boice’s recommendation.
Freeman also said Hitt had been a fantastic clerk for a very long time.
“I want to take just a minute and thank Patty for all her years of service here, and want to let her know how much we appreciate her,” Freeman said.
Boice explained that if one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the May primary, he or she will win the election outright. If none do, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election. Freeman said if two or fewer file to run, the election will be held in November rather than in May.