Purgailis, born in 1947, was the chairman of the Riga City Council from 1994 to 1997.
In 1991 Purgailis was elected as a member of the Riga City Council, but later as Chairman of the Budget Commission of the Riga City Council.
He was a long-term dean and professor of economics at the University of Latvia (LU). In 1993 Purgailis became dean of LU's Faculty of Management and Economic informatics. Purgailis has been an associate professor at the University of Latvia since 2001.