Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson used a cell phone on a table to illustrate his intent for expanded participation from the community's employees, elected officials and citizens.

"We don't all see it the same way," he said, gesturing toward the Blackberry. "The more people you get looking at the issues, the challenges, the opportunities, the greater the strength of our community will be. Get people to think about the opportunities we have as completely as we can. We will do more of that."

This summer, the Marana Town Council reviewed Davidson's performance after his first year in office. While there was no raise — Marana did not give raises this fiscal year — Mayor Ed Honea is enthusiastic in his support of Davidson.

"I rated him very high," Honea said. "I think he has done a tremendous job."

The mayor said Davidson has "built great rapport" with the Marana Police Officers Association and Chief Terry Tometich, "which was maybe an area of contention before. In general, employees like him, and feel he is fair. That doesn't mean they always agree."

Honea is good friends with Davidson's predecessor, Mike Reuswaat, and is not critical of Reuswaat's work. But, Honea said, Davidson has "really has done a fine job. He's an articulate individual. He's very open to council members, senior staff. He's aware of current events. We always feel like we're in the loop. We're very lucky to have him."

Davidson said the performance review was "a good opportunity to look back on what we've accomplished, and what do we need to work on for the next couple years."

Creation of Marana's strategic plan was "noted as an accomplishment by the council," and it is a guiding document in Davidson's path.

In the year to come, "you will see a refinement and greater focus," Davidson said. "That's what we started with the strategic plan. We will engage our employees, our staff, to a greater level in this strategic plan. And we will make sure we are not insulating ourselves. We will make sure there are many voices at the table."

A "major challenge" has been "the unanticipated, worldwide economic meltdown, and what did it mean to us at home.

"I'm proud of the way our entire team dealt with it," said Davidson. Marana's approach to reducing expenses while attempting to maintain services was "creative, and inclusive at all levels of the organization. People were creative in how we looked at the nature and structure of local government.

"I was amazed with some of the ideas, the recommendations, even how people react" to difficult times, Davidson said. "They have given me a lot of guidance, and a lot to think about. It's been a great reminder of the role everyone plays in an organization."

Unfortunately," reduced funds "drove it." And the trend may continue. Marana must be "prepared on the financial front to continue to make modifications," Davidson said.

Yet he asks — "how do you continue to have a culture of innovation where it's not driven by a financial crisis? How do you take a step back before you can create a new service? It's about the team, the people. The asset that exists within an organization is the human element. Everyone has a role to play within the organization."

Time at Harvard let Davidson think, reflect

Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson had an "absolutely amazing experience" in August, when he went to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for three weeks.

Davidson attended the Harvard program on a scholarship through the Arizona City / County Management Association. Town funds were not expended for his time in Massachusetts.

There were 69 people in his class, people many parts of the country and world, most of whom work in government. They talked about the principles of American's founding, the difficulties and challenges of public service, and strategies and techniques to address them.

"You live, work, study with people from all over the world," Davidson said. "It reminded how similar we all are, and how do we communicate with one another. Sometimes, we don't hear, don't understand, don't comprehend what we're trying to see."

It gave Davidson the chance to "explore my own shortcomings, or my own strengths." And he was pushed by Harvard's faculty. "They were outstanding. They made you think."

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