Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Davis Elected Leaders Passing Through: Reflections Prompted by the Obituary of Miles Nicholson, Davis City Council, 1957-64 (56)

A few days ago, the Enterprise carried an obituary on one Miles Nicholson who recently died at age 94. It includes the text that he “was mayor of Davis for two terms in the 1950s and ‘60s.”

I did not think much about Mr. Nicholson until Rich Rifkin asked me to help check out information on him for the purpose of a possible public commemoration of his service as a council member.

DE, 7-13-57
I did such checking and in the course of it I was struck by how Nicholson came to Davis as an adult, ran a business in the town, served in public capacities, and then left, at age 51, having lived here 24 years. Despite his established place in Davis, he spent the next 44 years elsewhere.

I was puzzled by this until I began to realize that this pattern is seen in the lives of a number of other Davis elected officials, especially those serving after the end of WWII. Indeed, some of our most famous still-living elected officials left town long ago, Bob Black, Richard Holdstock, Joan Poulos (semi), Tom Tomasi, Sheryl Freeman, and Susie Boyd among them. And there are a number of less famous ones who left, as well as those who almost won seats and left.

In post #13 dated October 9, 2011 on this blog, I reflected on what I took to be the curious fact that DHS graduates leave Davis in massively high percentages and that only one DHS graduate has ever been elected to the City Council (and very few graduates who remain in Davis run for Council)*

I am not sure what all this means, but it at least bespeaks a highly fluid population in which relative newcomers can and do become elected leaders in a climate where locally educated people offer them limited competition. Political involvement is sometimes ephemeral, though, and people move on. (Such a generalization applies, further, to elected leaders who remain in Davis but abandon the public arena in which they were once central.)

- - - >  By the way, my checking on Mr. Nicholson could not confirm service as mayor. He was, though, appointed to a partial council term (1957-60) created by the resignation of a member who left town (!!) & was elected to one term (1960-64) in which he served as vice mayor.

Addendum: While writing the above, a memory of stenciling on the heating-cooling duct work in my home came to mind. Taking a camera into my basement, I took the snapshot seen at the top. (Notice that Mr. Nicholson ran his business from a building in the 300 block of G Street. Downtown Davis now of course welcomes boutique shops more than enterprises as sweaty as sheet metal duct work.)   

DE, 4-21-60
DE, 5-3-62