Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson loved growing up in small, rural Willcox. He learned what it means to really know your neighbors and be a part of a community, solving problems together.
“That experience is carried with me in the importance of relationships, working with people and being pragmatic about things,” he said.
He was out with his parents filling sandbags in front of businesses and neighbors’ houses during the “floods of 1983,” the largest recorded floods in this region. Thirteen people died and over 1,000 homes were destroyed.
After college, Davidson worked for the University of Arizona for a few years, under Joel Valdez, who was the former city manager of Tucson. To Davidson, hearing his boss’ stories about being city manager seemed like the perfect mix of business and politics.
“It really kinda got me thinking about that as a possible career,” Davidson said. “And this job is really the best of both worlds. You get to actually take government—the politics of things, of where people want a community to go—but then run it efficiently and effectively like a business.”
Davidson and his wife Paige have a 4-year-old daughter named Annie. He served as city manager in Willcox, before taking over as Marana’s deputy town manager for three years. And he took up his post as Marana town manager in 2008.
Davidson appreciates Marana’s pioneering spirit. And as town manager, he found his niche. He thinks Marana is one of the best local communities to work for, especially because of how much it’s growing.
“I love watching dirt be turned,” he said—taking a blank page and creating. “This place is endless with that, in terms of building the physical part of the community, but also as we look at policies and how do you shape and form a community that is reflective of the needs of the people and businesses.”
It is the people of Marana’s vision and bold action that turned about 10 square miles with very little commercial development into what it is now, Davidson said. He added that the Marana government’s sole purpose is to serve the community, through building a solid foundation like good roads, parks and customer service on all levels.
“When you buy a home in a neighborhood, we want you to think of it as, one, a great experience of living in the community, but we also want you to think of yourself as, you’re part owner of this place, and that what we put into it is what we’re all going to get out of it,” he said.
Like many communities, one of the challenges Davidson sees in Marana is not having enough money to pursue all the projects they’d like to. Another challenge is comepting interests, which he said can be worked out b focusing on core values and a strong foudnation.
“If we focus on those foundational things, everything else will fall into place,” he said. “If you can take care of those core things that everyone touches and feels at some point in the day, I think that gets you quite a ways down the road of how people view and look at their local government.”
Davidson thinks Oro Valley’s choice of Mary Jacobs for town manager is a good one. He’s known her for many years and looks forward to working with her.
A highlight since his time as town manager has been the “phenomenal people” the town has been able to hire and retain, he said.
“It’s been very rewarding to see a team of people come together. Nothing is great without great people,” he said. “If you don’t have the right mix of people and diversity in all forms, of thought and background, there’s no way that you can achieve long-term success for an organization.”
Read this story and more at tucsonlocalmedia.com