From public service to music, Mike Davis does it all
by Linda A. Rapka
With a love of music almost as strong as his love for public service, Local 47 member Mike Davis has always sought to promote diversity through his work helping the community.
Born in North Carolina, Davis got his first taste of music singing in his church choir, later picking up the saxophone in the fifth grade.
Citing his mother, an educator, as an inspiration, his interests quickly broadened to include public service. Davis launched his career working as a public administrator in Los Angeles after completing graduate school here.
Before his appointment as a commissioner Board of Public Works by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in July 2013, Davis served as a State Assemblymember representing the 48th District (South Los Angeles and the Koreatown/Wilshire area) from 2006 to 2012, during which time he held Vice Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. He also served as Senior Deputy Supervisor for L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Burke, where he was responsible for South L.A. and served as liaison to Public Works. He worked as District Director for Congresswoman Maxine Waters during her tenure in both the California State Assembly and U.S. Congress.
Throughout his career, music always remained a major part of how he identifies with his community. Because of his early background in music, Davis decided to join Local 47 in 2012 during his time working in the legislature.
“I recognize the role unions play in our workforce and society, and wanted to get more involved with the musicians in my community,” he said.
Davis first crossed paths with the mayor when Eric Garcetti became state chair of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. “I was the first state legislator to endorse Obama, but Eric was probably the first person in the city in terms of city government to support him,” Davis said. “I thought because Eric Garcetti valued diversity he would be a great leader for Los Angeles, and in the general election I supported his campaign.”
After Garcetti’s victory in the mayoral race, he appointed Davis as Public Works commissioner, a job which Davis says fits him to a T.
“This is a great job for me having served in the legislature for six years, because it’s a job that allows me not only to do administrative work for which I have an academic background as a master of public administration, but also allows me to look at policy and vote on it like I did as a legislator,” he said. “As commissioner, at the same time you get to vote on what the policies of the department are going to be, which are the same skills I used as a legislator.”
The city’s five Board of Pubic Works commissioners handle oversight for the bureaus that provide infrastructure management for the city. Davis is responsible for the Contract Administration Division, in which he handles contracting jobs which range from a few million to a few hundred million dollars.
“One of my goals is to make sure we have diversity in the jobs that we let out and contract for,” he said. “We have various people who represent Los Angeles, and those who get the jobs deserve an equal opportunity to compete. We need to have diversity at every level because Los Angeles is among one of the most diverse cities in the country. We are a majority minority city, and I think that is the strength of who we are.”
Among his responsibilities also includes coordinating African-American Heritage Month for the city, a task for which he is more than qualified. While working on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors with Supervisor Yvonne Burke, he coordinated and chaired the county’s African-American History Month committee; and during his time in the legislature he chaired an African-American history project for the state in South L.A. with the African-AmericanMuseum called “Living Legends.” In both cases he honored many legends, many of whom were musicians: Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, Babyface, Jeffrey Osborne, and The O’Jays.
“Now it is an honor for me to do this project for the city and for our mayor,” Davis said. “This year we are honoring people of different backgrounds — Judge Conseulo Marshall, L.A. County Board Supervisor Yvonne Burke, actor Lou Gossett Jr., actress Angela Bassett, and musician Charlie Wilson.”
While it is a lot of hard work, Davis says he wouldn’t trade his career for anything in the world.
“In public service there is a self-fulfilling experience in helping others to achieve,” he said. “For those of us who are successful in anything, it comes as a result of us having help from others. I was very fortunate to have support at home; my mother was an educator. I believe that public service is my way that I think I can make a significant contribution to the community. I am fulfilled by the work I do in our community and how I can help others by public policy with the work that I do.”
As if he weren’t busy enough, one of Davis’s many goals for the future comes back to his love of music.
“I’ve bought a guitar,” he said. “One of the things I’m going to do in my spare time is take extra lessons learning to play other instruments. In addition to fixing my saxophone, among my goals is to take some acoustic guitar lessons on Saturday mornings. Then maybe I’ll move on to keyboards.”