The public sector was never where Burbank City Manager Ron Davis wanted to end up working.
After spending six years on a nuclear submarine for the U.S. Navy, Davis was convinced that was enough time working for the government for him.
“I was proud of it, but six years of riding around in a sewer pipe was enough,” he said.
When he left the Navy, he spent time working for Puget Sound Energy Inc. in the state of Washington working on mergers and acquisitions and inevitably worked his way out of the job.
The last merger he worked on resulted in him being let go.
As he was looking for work, a recruiter in Burbank contacted Davis to see if he was interested in working for Burbank Water and Power as its general manager.
“They had a bad utility, and it was truly broke when I came,” Davis said. “They wanted to get rid of it.”
He met with Robert “Bud” Ovrom, who was the city manager at the time, who told Davis that the city-owned utility couldn’t be fixed.
“I told him that he didn’t know assets and that the city owned assets,” Davis said. “So I taught them asset utilization and power trading.”
Davis added that he only took the job to prove Ovrom wrong, and he lived at the Holiday Inn on Angeleno Avenue convinced that he wasn’t going to last for more than six months on the job.
“All I intended to do while I looked for a real job was show Bud Ovrom how wrong he was, to teach him a lesson about business,” Davis said.
Davis took that job in 1999 and spent 17 years as general manager of Burbank Water and Power, and has been credited with saving the utility from going under and turning it into one of the most efficient and reliable utilities in the region.
He spent another 3½ years with Burbank as its city manager, helping the city out of a systemic budget deficit.
On Sept. 30, Davis, who is 66 years old, will be retiring after 20 years of service to Burbank. He was celebrated during a retirement party on Thursday at Fire Station No. 11 on Orange Grove Avenue.
Many city employees and officials from other agencies congratulated Davis and his success with the city and wished him well as he plans to move back to his home state of Washington with his wife, Cheryl, who said she was elated to finally see her husband take a break after having a job since he was 13 years old.
“It didn’t really bother me because I knew he was doing what he lives to do,” Cheryl Davis said.
Jorge Somoano, the current general manager of Burbank Water and Power, said Davis was a great mentor to him and thinks that Davis helped create a functional utility that can withstand the test of time.
“He saw the community as a whole and not just individuals,” Somoano said. “He cared about the big picture.”
While proving Ovrom wrong was the reason why he entered the public sector, Davis said he stayed for as long as he did because of the community, and he wanted to see it flourish.
The plan was to retire after 17 years with the city utility, but after seeing that the city’s budget and overall operation needed to be fixed, he decided to stick around and find a solution to another problem he thought was not that big of a challenge for himself.
“They’re on a good trajectory, especially with an underlying economy that’s strong,” Ron Davis said.
With retirement just around the corner, Ron Davis said he is comfortable leaving the city and thinks it will stay on an upward path.
He’s already bought a new fishing boat, which he intends to use to catch large wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. However, Ron Davis said he’ll be back in Southern California for the weather and the food.
While his love of fishing awaits him in Puget Sound, one of his first plans will be to make arrangements for a trip to Washington state to visit his granddaughter and attend her birthday party.