WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award
Favorite Son 2013 - Gilbert Davidson
Davidson was the city manager of Willcox from 2002 through 2005, went onto become Assistant Town Manager of Marana, and then its current Town Manager for the past six years.
Reno began his presentation by saying that Davidson was raised here in Willcox from a baby, “straight as they come,” and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a public servant.
He went onto say, “Interesting thing about politics. You need to be popular to gain office, then you make a bunch of unpopular decisions once you’re in there.”
Reno said that Davidson knows both political science and business, and as a kid here in Willcox also knew “how to keep skeletons out of their closet.”
“Consider Senior Ditch Day at Willcox High – you need to go along with the crowd to keep from being an outcast. But you also know right from wrong,” said Reno, adding, “So you sort of choose to ditch. But you didn’t have to keep an eye out for law enforcement when they raided Rustlers Canyon. And you didn’t have to hope to escape when everyone scattered to avoid detection.”
Reno explained, “That’s because although you called in sick that day, Mom knew and reported to the school that you stayed home to paint the house with your church pastor. Alibi accepted, skeleton avoided.”
He said that while Davidson was athletic as a youngster, he had no time for sports.
“You were a bit brainy and an organizational freak, even as a youth. But you could still be fun, as Mom tells the story of her day-care at home days, when a middle schooler like you created a circus atmosphere with those kids,” said Reno, adding, “No really, you organized a pretend circus that had those kids performing for their parents when it came time to pick them up.”
“Then there’s the circus they call middle school politics. You garnered the eighth grade vote and won class president,” said Reno, adding, “But not just eighth grade prez, you followed with freshman class president at Willcox High, and eventually student body president your senior year.”
“Eventually Mom and Dad, sister and brother would get dragged into your next campaign, that of college student body president,” said Reno, adding, “Mom resisted that, too, because you already completed four years at the University and she wasn’t paying for a fifth year just so you could run for a silly student government position. No, No, you could pay for that foolishness yourself.”
Davidson had said that all he had to do was win, and that the $5,000 stipend that comes with the president’s position would pay for itself.
“That’s how you dragged Mom into the campaign big time, so she would be sure to not have to pay as you went for your second major. And you won,” said Reno, adding, “And this wasn’t just about the winning. This wasn’t like some ceremonial high school student government position. University class president got to do things – like help redesign and build a newer student union, and get a new freshman building.”
That position helped Davidson land his first full-time job, as the University of Arizona’s Project Manager/Senior Project Coordinator for Business Affairs, he said.
“Three years into that, and your hometown came calling with an impressive position that was both political and business. Your former youth soccer coach was now the Mayor (Mick Easthouse) and helped you land that job,” said Reno, adding, “Ah, that little spot of sports experience paid off.”
He went onto say that Davidson “even got to hire a former teammate (Ryan Benavides),” who had “a nice set of skills and a hometown knowledge perfectly suited to help you achieve your vision for your hometown.”
“This also came in handy when an out of town position came calling for both of you,” said Reno, adding, “Another political/business position. You were there first, your teammate wisely followed. You were promoted to a top position, your buddy has become a right hand man.”
Benavides told Reno that Davidson’s small town personality works very well for him, as he is “easy to trust, easy to talk to, and a good listener.”
Reno went onto say,”You even gained some really valuable communication skills in your Willcox position, because, well, everyone knows everybody in Willcox. So even when you were shopping at Safeway or visiting Sierra Lumber, people were asking you work questions on duty or off.”
“You may also, according to your buddy, be the hardest working man in your business/public servant role,”said Reno, adding “‘I don’t know when he sleeps,’ marvels your friend.”
“Some people have teased our favorite out of town son about becoming president of something larger someday,” but Davidson has such strong enough expectations of himself that he doesn’t have to worry about living up to the expectations of others, Benavides told Reno.
“Although, what you have already achieved is awesome, and you have the ability, he says, to achieve far beyond what anybody’s expectations may be for you,” Reno told the audience.
He pointed out that Davidson was named in the Arizona Daily Star’s “Top 30 Leaders under 30,” and at age 27 was perhaps the youngest city manager in state history.
“We watch in awe of what you will accomplish next, and you may be one of the youngest ever chosen for this award, as we congratulate you, Gilbert Davidson, as our 2013 Out of Town Favorite Son,” he said.
In closing, Reno thanked Benavides, Marsha Davidson, and Jonnie Belle Bethel and Mick Easthouse for their contributions to his presentation.
When it came his turn to speak, Davidson said that his Mom brought him here under the pretense that she was being honored for her work with Wings Over Willcox.
“I was lied to,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
“I’ve been blessed,” said Davidson, who went onto talk about the privilege of being able to “come home to your home town and serve where you used to live,” despite the challenge of coming back to the place where they watched him grow up.
Referring to comments made earlier in the evening by emcee Eddie Browning about the generosity of Willcox, Davidson said, “That’s what I know about this town.”
“It truly means a lot,” Davidson said about the Willcox Favorite Son award.
“Thank you so much.”