Many couples handle the role of public office differently. Some keep their private lives separate and some commit beyond the public attention, separate yet fully engaged.
Mayor Davis and his wife Lisa fit into this latter category. His Worship made a public commitment that if he agreed to be at an event, he would guarantee to be there. Lisa can’t do it all with her own responsibilities but understands his drive and figures the frequent absences as part of the job.
Both have children from previous marriages and need to keep those kids and grandkids part of their lives but not exposed to the paparazzi effect and social media scrutiny. There is no question that being seen as community VIPs also draws the trolls and negative commentary of the chattering class. Kevin and Lisa choose to take the high road and not compete in mudslinging…on any level. Lisa works in the Hamilton area and daily commutes for her job at Carstar’s corporate office representing over 260 collision repair centres across Canada. Nevertheless, she attends as many community events as possible to celebrate all the great stuff that happens locally. There’s nothing pretentious here. At a recent Gala event, she was thoroughly excited to win the door prize and supports all the fundraising opportunities she can for so many not-for-profit organizations.
Last week, she joined Kevin as his back-seat rider on the Lansdowne Children’s Centre Motorcycle Fundraiser. Bedazzled in her pink leathers to the Mayor’s dark biker visage, they smiled and waved as they passed the kids from Lansdowne lining and screaming from the curb on Mount Pleasant Road.
Now the Mayor and his first lady are often recognized in non-motorized biking gear, leisurely enjoying the 98 km of trails that surround his city. A secret you may not know is that Kevin has an ‘assisted bicycle’ too. This little transportation device allows automatic, but not gas-powered, assistance on the way up hills.
We all need a little help every now and then, in biking AND municipal politics.
And that brings us to Mayor Davis’s motives, approaches and passions. As a retired lawyer he realizes the advantage of conciliation and consultation. That includes public responses, listening to fellow Councillors needs, and the years of municipal expertise and counsel from city hall staff.
Let’s use his recent budget deliberations to get the flavour of the Mayor’s work ethic. He began the process: by interviewing all his Councillors as to their wish lists and ward preferences; sat with the Council Chair of Finance as well as the City Treasurer to determine a fair and effective process for examining departmental budgets exploring zero based budgeting vs. line item examination and all the variables in between; he met with all senior department heads and the Chief Administrative Officer to understand the sequence of events in Brantford over the past couple of decades as to what worked, what needed review and what was ripe for improvement. The end result was that all ideas and concepts were investigated. The process was extended to include opposing suggestions strategizing over social investment and the role of government in housing, police support and drug strategies as well as economic development and investments in infrastructure. He personally went over 8000 line-items in the budget resulting in the anticipated tax increase being halved by a cooperative Council.
Oh, and that was in his first two months. He credits a course he took in university in speed reading and it keeps paying off for him.
Kevin was not always focused on a career in politics as he majored in Economics, but he had a minor in Political Sciences at the University of Calgary… perhaps a foreboding. He reflects that he took a graduate course in Microeconomics which shifted him dramatically into the study of Law instead and was called to the bar in 1981. It was a severe economic depression at that time and living in Brantford, he started with Boddy Ryerson and eventually partnered in Waterous Holden Amy Hitchon. He divided his time between 25% Employment law, 40% Matrimonial law and the remaining split between various elements of litigation including Estates and Corporate clients, becoming Managing Partner in 2008. His arrival in the community exposed the travesty and devastation caused by the implosion of the farm implement industry. 27% unemployment, social discord, economic disparity and no strategic plan municipally to address it all. Kevin did serve two terms as an Alderman back then and realized he could help individuals more through his law practice.
At the same time, he committed to the Brantford community as: president of the Chamber of Commerce; member of the Economic Development Board; Boys and Girls Club, Chair of Brant United Way; Brantford Aquatic Club; Board of Governors for Mohawk College; and President of the Rotary Club of Brantford/Sunrise. This is Kevin’s style. He immerses himself in his passions and works to find solutions. He sensed the electorate were dissatisfied with an apparent lack of engagement from the previous mayor and felt a sense of duty to right the ship to benefit everyone. He also stressed the need, recognized by untimely deaths of special friends and family members, that one must fulfill their dreams while they are still able. He sees his election plurality and cross section of support as a mandate to serve on behalf of the greater good for all.
Mayor Davis is not looking to be autocratic or dictatorial, but rather collegial and collaborative. He leads by example in a civil, friendly manner respecting other’s opinions. But don’t ever be lulled into thinking he doesn’t have his finger on the community’s pulse every moment. Another example of his drive surfaced as he accepted positions on two provincial municipal organization boards. LUMCO (Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus) is a lobby group representing 67% of the population in Ontario made up of municipalities over 100,000. Currently they are in discussion with the Federal government to better serve local communities. The group is also opposed to the new Ontario government performing what the call ‘downloading by stealth’ whereby they cut funding to social and not-for-profit services and increase municipal expectations to pick up the cost.. Davis sees this as one of the most serious consequences to future budget planning. Davis is also a member of the board for AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) whom advocate on behalf of more than 450 towns, townships, regional governments, and cities in Ontario. Their role is to ensure the provincial government respects the role, authority and mandate that are controlled locally. An example of this affecting Brantford is the Cannabis Policy Position, working with Attorney General Caroline Mulroney towards a report and municipal deliberation by September.
The Mayor has been fairly vocal in his commitment to finding efficiencies and partnerships with the surrounding municipality of the County of Brant.
Although this may be a long-term dream, he wants to assure that nothing will be done in a heavy-handed way like seeking provincially forced amalgamation. His intention is to find what works in order to recognize a positive relationship with the leadership in that municipality. This would start with planning to improve the services and reduce tax burdens for their constituents and only if it is equally fair to both municipalities. His hope is that there is a will to determine equitable negotiations from both sides and find the most meaningful solutions in areas like infrastructure repairs, transportation and social services. Mayor Davis is aware previous animosity may have caused a strain on the relationships between the communities, but if there is a common concept as to an acceptable outcome, he would accept and participate in constructive attempts to determine an efficient process.
Remember we are only six months into his term.
The Mayor and his first Lady would love to talk to you about your vision. Perhaps a cup of tea? Or a cruise down a winding country lane?