Councilmember Dev Davis never pictured herself as a politician.
She came from hardworking stock — the daughter of a school teacher and a truck driver who hauled farming equipment. At age 10, Davis got her own job delivering newspapers and didn’t know much about the world outside her North Dakota home.
“I didn’t really even know the ‘way to San Jose,’ if you will. I literally only knew the song (by Dionne Warwick),” she laughed. “I didn’t even know where it was.”
Davis said she loved to read and investigate. She scarfed down the news with her morning breakfast, diving headfirst into politics and policy. When her parents fostered other children, Davis saw first hand how “the system was failing kids,” prompting her to study economics at Stanford University and become an education researcher.
She moved to the 10th largest city in the nation in 2004 and watched the 2008 Great Recession impact lives — including her own. She ran for City Council in 2016, feeling a duty to her two kids to make sure they, and other residents, were protected during future times of economic downturn, she said.
Now faced with the coronavirus pandemic and a hurting city budget, Davis — who is running for re-election in District 6 against biomedical engineer Jake Tonkel — said she is ready to continue the policy work she started over the past four years.
“I’ve made good connections within our district and within our community and I think it’s really important to have experienced leadership right now in these most uncertain times,” she said.
Davis has advocated for COVID-19 relief programs such as San Jose Al Fresco and partnered with Mayor Sam Liccardo to create housing and support opportunities at Evans Lane for homeless residents in her district.
Former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed called Davis a calm, analytical and focused leader.
“There’s many, many issues these days and she’s managed to stay focused on her district, which I think is the most important job of a councilmember,” Reed said.
If elected for another term, housing and public safety will continue to be top priorities for Davis.
“It’s really important for us to build more housing, and at the same time, protect our single-family home neighborhoods, Davis said. “We want those opportunities to be available for everyone.”
Rich Waterman, former mayor of Campbell, said Davis shares his goals for creating — but also preserving — housing in the county.
“She’s a big proponent of protecting the neighborhoods,” Waterman said, citing the increasing number of developers looking to build large apartment complexes in Santa Clara County. “She’s pushing affordable housing, which I really like, especially in the LGBTQ community, which, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I found to be very helpful in discussions.”
Davis recently voted in favor of commercial linkage fees, which obligate commercial developers to contribute to affordable housing projects within the city. She has also voted to protect single-family home zoning and private property rights, winning her praise from the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association.
“SVTA is an advocate for consumers and fiscal transparency and believes Dev Davis supports everyday residents over interest groups who consistently advocate for tax increases,” said Pierluigi Oliverio, an SVTA board member and the former District 6 councilmember.
She also voted in favor of tiny home projects and rolling back regulations on accessory dwelling units. Davis said her proudest housing milestone was an initiative she worked on with Liccardo to speed up the city’s process for building affordable homes.
In a recent San José Spotlight panel, Davis called for a greater police presence in the city. Since she took office, 300 new officers have been added to the city’s police force.
Davis said she wants to ensure police advocates are not undercut by calls to defund the police and supports expanding the powers of the Independent Police Auditor to promote greater accountability in the San Jose Police Department.
Councilmember Johnny Khamis endorses Davis for re-election for her love of statistics and ability to “balance both sides of an issue,” especially one as divisive as police reform.
“She’s the most analytical person on City Council,” Khamis said. “She doesn’t just listen to the vocal minority. She weighs out the issues and makes her decisions based on facts.”
Davis also wants to see through the completion of Fire Station 37 on Lincoln Avenue and the addition of LUCAS chest compression devices to all fire engines — a process she began three years ago.
Davis said despite her accomplishments on the City Council, the work isn’t done. She wants to see Caltrain expanded and electrified and be sure other projects such as the Google development are seen through in a way that meets resident needs.
“I love San Jose, I love our district. We’re in it for the long haul here. We bought our house here,” Davis said. “I have the experience and over the last four years have been very proud of the accomplishments that my team and I have made. I would like to continue that work.”
According to campaign finance records, Davis raised $152,097 and spent $142,935 this year as of Sept. 19.
Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, councilmembers Lan Diep, Pam Foley and Johnny Khamis are backing Davis.
Davis also is endorsed by Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC), Business San José Chamber PAC, California Apartment Association, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, The Mercury News, Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS, Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voters and the Silicon Valley Organization PAC.
IN HER OWN WORDS
“What’s the most important lesson you learned in 2020 and how has it prepared you for this role?”
AT A GLANCE
Name: Devora “Dev” Davis
Family: Married, 2 children
Political affiliation: None
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics from Oakland University and Master’s degrees in Public Policy & Policy, Organization, and Leadership from Stanford University
Profession: District 6 councilmember
Current or previous elected or appointed positions: Transportation & Environment Committee chair, member of Smart Cities & Innovation Committee and vice chair of the VTA Diridon Station Joint Policy Advisory Board
Top 3 priorities: Homelessness, cleaning blight in our neighborhoods and creeks and recovering from economic impact of COVID-19
Top 3 endorsements: Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg
Special talent: Played oboe on college scholarship
In one sentence, why vote for you?: “I have the experience needed to protect our neighborhoods and make them safe and to ensure we recover quickly from COVID-19 impacts.”
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.