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DOWNEY – “When I first started,” city planner William E. Davis says, “the goal of the city was to promote downtown Downey as the destination of choice. We’re close to achieving this.”
Proof of a resurgent downtown, he said, is the advent of such establishments as Porto’s Bakery, the Lock & Key, Bastards BBQ, Club DB Lounge, Joseph’s Bar & Grill, the development of the Downey Gateway project, and construction of The View, among others.
Davis, born in L.A. and raised in Compton, holds a BS degree (1977) in city and regional planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (after two years of architecture studies), and began his career with the city of Downey on Jan. 2, 2001 as business development manager. He assumed the title of city planner in June of 2009.
Prior to this, he worked for eight years for the city of Cerritos, also in planning. He says he started in code enforcement and, before going on to the city of Cudahy, he functioned as Planner II-“equivalent to senior planner here.” And immediately before joining Downey’ administrative staff, he served as the director of community development for the city of Cudahy. Among his duties there: supervising the planning, code enforcement, and parking enforcement staffs.
He thus brought to Downey significant knowledge, experience, and a skills set that were relevant and immediately useful to the city.
As Downey city planner, Davis manages the day-to-day activities of the planning division, whose main functions are to maintain and constantly evaluate the city’s general plan, oversee the physical development of the city, implement Downey’s zoning ordinance, ensure the compatibility of land uses throughout the city, provide design review for both new and rehabilitation projects in the city, approve business licenses, provide technical assistance to the planning commission, and provide information on these issues to the public.
Assisting him are: Mark Selheim, principal planner; David Blumenthal, senior planner; Jessica Flores, associate planner; Kevin Nguyen, assistant planner; three interns; and Mary Cavanagh, secretary.
The other divisions in the re-formulated community development department, under director Brian Saeki, are: building and safety, housing, and economic development.
Davis likes to summarize his role for the city as having “assisted in the development of residential, industrial and commercial projects, while maintaining an active role in the revitalization of downtown Downey.”
Because of downsizing, Davis says, “We’ve become more efficient, and technology has aided our analytical capabilities as well as our sharing information with the public.”
His quiet, unassuming exterior masks a fierce love of life, while strong family values anchor him to the ground. He follows the Lakers and the Dodgers avidly (he rooted for the old Los Angeles Rams as well). His love of basketball is evidenced by his intimate knowledge of the memorable tussles between the Lakers and the Celtics as well between the Lakers and the Knicks in the old days. His sports career effectively began and ended with his playing junior varsity football in high school (Gardena High), as well as enjoying pick-up basketball games.
And don’t get him started on film. He has a collection of DVD’s that has now reached a total of 950 movie titles: classics, westerns, comedies, film noir, gangster movies, etc. He can talk about the likes of James Cagney, Alan Ladd, Robert Mitchum, Audrey Totter, Veronica Lake, Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, Jane Greer, ad infinitum.
He also loves vacationing with his wife, Millie, in such places as the Caribbean and Ensenada. Last year they vacationed on the island of St. Martin, where he has discovered the joys of parasailing, and celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary last August. Millie is a vice-president at One West Bank.
The Davises have lived in Chino the past 18 years and in the city of Walnut for 15 years before that. They have three grown children: Erika, 33; Brian, 30; and Jeffrey, 20.
Education was, and is, important to the Davis family. His dad, who passed away two years ago after a career with the LA police department, emphasized character and hard work.
His mom, now 82 and a retired elementary school teacher in the LAUSD, and a younger brother still live in their old house in Compton.
Davis says he tries to be humble, that, to him “ego” means “edging God out”.
He says of his work in Downey: “I love working here. I’m a public servant who enjoys serving the public. I really appreciate the opportunity to make Downey a better place.”
He says he heeds the city governance’s call to “strive for excellence in public service.”
Published: Dec. 19, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 36