Soft spoken, but not soft, Davis is a captain on the Bayonne Police Department. He is not the house painter or any of the numerous others he has sometimes received phone calls for.
A police officer since 1986, Davis is probably best known for his role as part of the police Special Crimes Unit whose five-year investigation led to the arrest of scores of people in and out of Bayonne connected with an illegal internet gambling operation. While the investigation started under his watch in Bayonne, it soon blossomed beyond the city and resulted in significant involvement of federal authorities. His work brought to the city more than $1.5 million in confiscated criminal funds for use to bolster local law enforcement efforts.
But Davis has been involved in numerous levels of police operations from beat cop to being part of the Cops in Schools programs. He said he loves being a police officer.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I feel as passionately about being a police officer now as the day I started.”
Davis took a long time to make up his mind to run for mayor, but said he felt he could serve the residents of Bayonne at a higher level as mayor.
Even so, this is very early for any candidate—normally, candidates announce in late December or early January. The election isn’t until May of next year, but already three candidates have emerged: Mayor Mark Smith, Anthony Zanowic, and now Davis.
Although he delayed declaring in order to talk about it with his family, Davis said he is coming out early partly because rumors have circulated already and he wanted to put an end to speculation.
But he is still putting together his team, his platform, and his ticket. He said he will be running with council candidates.
“I’m speaking with people,” he said. “I’m looking for people with the same goals as I have.”
The mayor, three ward council seats, and two at large council seats are at stake.
After 27 and a half years as a police officer, Davis believes he has the skills to operate a municipal government, saying that leadership is finding the right person for the right job, and letting that person do the job.
He describes himself a loyal person who understands the concept of integrity.
“My father once told me that if I had a doubt about something I was doing that I should picture it on the front page of a [newspaper] and if I felt ashamed of it, then it is the wrong thing to do,” Davis said.
Bayonne, he recalls, was a very intimate place to grow up in, and something that the community seems to have gotten away from.
His father James, worked for Best Foods for 40 years, his mother Catherine, worked at the 4th Street ShopRite for 25 years after which she worked at the A&P until it closed.
He said he supports the teachers and their effort to negotiate a contract, and believes that an elected school board would be more accountable to the public.
“Longevity breeds corruption,” he said. “Kids are our future and if we can’t treat the teachers right, we’re not helping our kids.”
Davis has three kids, James, Joshua, and Jamie, one of whom attends a local public school.
“This is all about our children, and everybody needs a voice,” he said. “Teachers working without a contract for four years is not just an affront to them, but to the community.”
Davis said he is concerned about employees working for the city and the morale, believing many are “walking on egg shells” so as not to offend anyone.
He also said lawsuits involving land sales at the former Military Ocean Terminal overshadow the future of the city. While city officials say the lawsuits are on their way to being resolved, Davis believes they have a potential to cost the city many millions of dollars, which taxpayers cannot afford.
“We gave away the base to the Port Authority,” he said. “We’re going to have to sit down with all the people who have filed lawsuits and figure out how to resolve them. We have communicated other than in court.”
He is also running on the idea of transparency and said city hall should provide information readily to those who ask for it, and claims that there have been difficulties in obtaining information even through the approved process.
While he would like to have a detailed plan for solving the city’s fiscal’s problems, he can’t because until he gets elected, he won’t fully know how big a problem it is. But he knows that there has been a yearly budget deficit the city had been filling with land sales such as the one to Port Authority, something he says is a sign of serious problems.
Once in office, he knows he faces a stiff learning curve, trying to evaluate the situation based on what he learns once he has access.
“We don’t want to shoot from the hip and say we can cure the problems until we know how bad the problems are, and we won’t know that until we get into office to see,” he said.
At this point, he said he will be out campaigning, going door to door, and meeting with people, introducing himself while at the same time listening to community concerns.
“I’m an easygoing guy, but that shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness,” he said. “The mayor must be someone who brings that community together.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.