COTTAGE GROVE – After pondering his retirement from public service once his current term ends in 2022, Mayor Jeff Gowing is instead turning his sights statewide.

Gowing announced his plans to run for the District 12 position in the Oregon House​ of Representatives in front of a gathering at the Coast Fork Brewing & Feed Store on Sixth Street in downtown Wednesday evening. 

Gowing

“It’s been an honor to serve as their mayor because it’s my hometown,” Gowing said on Tuesday, before The Chronicle went to press for this week’s edition. Gowing, who has been mayor since 2017, said he hopes that, if elected to this new position, he can better serve rural Lane County by making residents’ voices heard in Salem. 

On Sept. 27, Oregon became the first state to redraw its congressional map for the next decade. It enacted a plan that creates four Democratic districts, a safe Republican district and one potential battleground district, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

The redrawn maps led Rep. Cedric Hayden (R) to announce on Nov. 23 that he would pursue the new District 7 Senate seat in the 2022 election cycle. Hayden served eight years as a Representative in the Oregon House.

“With the new redistricting lines comes an opportunity to serve a wider amount of constituents and to help more people achieve their goals and resolve their unmet needs,” Hayden said in his announcement.

Cottage Grove mayor Gowing making a special announcement at Coast Fork Brewing on Wednesday evening. PHOTO/ERIN TIERNEY

That decision opened the door for Gowing to pursue the new District 12 House seat. 

Cottage Grove, Creswell, Oakridge, Coburg, Westfir, Junction City are incorporated into District 12. Gowing said he plans to set up meetings with leaders in those communities. 

“I had planned last election that this would be the end of my career in public service. I was looking to retire and not do this anymore. And after talking with friends and family and business people, the support that I got from them made me realize it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Gowing pointed to his belief that rural communities are underrepresented in Salem, and that legislatures and representatives have “lost touch” with rural Lane County. 

“I’m from the working class, I am a millwright. I know what it is like to be a blue collar worker. I know what it’s like to be in an industry that’s had challenges over the years … I can relate because I have been through it,” Gowing said. 

He said voters can count on him being “that change they are looking for.”

“One of the things I see as a problem in Salem is that they’ve glossed over rural communities. There are very few legislators that come from local governments,” he said. “There isn’t enough interaction with residents to listen to their concerns. I also want to see the state step up and support these cities rather than hand down mandates. Oregonians want to see a change in Salem.”

Gowing said his party affiliation should not get in the way of bipartisan work to support rural communities.

“I’ll be filing as a Republican,” he said. “But, you know … at the end of the day, we all got to work together. I hope people don’t care what letter is there, because the difference will be made through the decisions, not party affiliation.”