“Everywhere I’ve gone, I tried to learn and use those lessons,” he said.
Some of the jobs he has held over the years include working for two governors, working for an attorney general and being the spokesman for a firefighting association in 27 states. He was also the head of Arizona’s Republican party, a vice president at NAU and now runs his own business.
“I haven’t held a job for very long,” he said with a chuckle.
Most recently, he accepted a post as a commissioner for the Arizona Game and Fish.
“One thing I say when I meet game and fish people is that I am here to learn, because I have a lot to learn,” Davis said. “I think I know about game and fish and public policy, but I barely know anything.”
He does, however, have a passion for hunting and fishing.
“That’s my hobby,“ he said. “Anytime I can be in the outdoors fishing or hunting, I will take that over most anything else.“
Davis’s father taught him how to fish. He took up hunting while he was a student at NAU, where he started studying to become a forest ranger.
“I learned I was good at neither math nor science.”
He said he hadn’t realized that being a forest ranger relies heavily on the two disciplines.
He ended up with a degree in public administration from NAU.
Right out of college, he went to work for the Reagan administration, where he spent most of his time in the department of education and small business administration.
“I learned about the complexity of public policy. In those roles, I worked with Congress and I learned how big and slow Washington is,” he said.
In 1987, he came back to Arizona to become the executive director of the Arizona Republican party at the age of 25. He stayed at that post for three years.
“My first day on the job, Governor [Evan] Mecham abolished the Martin Luther King holiday. It was total chaos. It was like walking into a buzz saw. It was a difficult time for the Republican Party,” he said.
His job was to keep the party together, to provide service to all the candidates, but it was no easy feat.
“The party was eating itself alive,” he said. “I learned a lot. I learned by baptism, by fire. It was a great experience looking back,” he said.
Mecham was eventually impeached.
“I ultimately saw a Republican governor [Fife Symington] elected in 1991.”
Eventually, Davis left his position with the party and went to work for Attorney General Grant Woods.
“I was one of the legislative liaisons. We were working on passing legislation related to budget, policy issues, law enforcement, public policy.”
He left the office of the attorney general to go to work for Rural Metro, a private fire and ambulance company with a presence in 27 states and locally at the time in Scottsdale, Sun City, Fountain Hills, Green Valley and Pima County.
“I learned a lot about public safety, EMS and fire services. I represented the fire district, was the on camera face during fires and disasters and negotiated contracts. I learned to negotiate effectively and be trusted by our customers,“ he said.
To put himself in the boots of the people he represented, Davis became a firefighter.
“I actually had a crew. It was called the Administration Crew. We got trained and certified and we would go out and fight fires,” he said.
He first left Rural Metro in 1993 when Governor Symington asked him to be on his executive staff at the age of 35. He started out as an executive assistant and ended up overseeing the governor’s offices of transportation, corrections, natural resources as well as the office of women and children, drafting policies that affected families.
“We had significant budget issues in those days. The economy was not in good shape and we were dealing with significant cuts,” he said.
“I was working on transportation issues at the time and a lot of the freeway system was under construction,” he said.
The 101 was underway and funds were short.
He said they solved the problem by eliminating landscaping and scrapping plans to put part of the 101 below ground level.
“Our mantra was, ‘we need to lay pavement and get the freeway done,’” he said. It was finished early.
He returned to Rural Metro in 1998 at the age of 36.
About this time, Davis was also chosen to serve on the Board of Regents.
“It was a wonderful way to be able to serve for higher education. I had a wonderful experience. I did that for two years,” he said.
He reconnected to NAU when Clara Lovett, former president, approached him and asked him to come to work for her as vice president of public affairs.
“At that point in my life, I had to travel a lot for Rural Metro. I had a young daughter at the time and I got tired of being away from my family,” he said.
He said he got off the “corporate train,” and moved his family to Flagstaff.
“It was a huge change in my life, financially and personally. It was the best decision I ever made,” he said.
His daughter, Brittani, who was just starting fifth grade was then able to attend Flagstaff schools all the way through NAU.
Davis says he had been thinking about starting his own public affairs business and followed through with the idea in 2002. He is a founding partner in FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs. He was able to stay on at NAU half time at first.
He went full time in his own business in 2004.
“I still have NAU as a client,” he said.
Among his other clients are the Arizona Cardinals, TGEN, Salt River Project and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He employs nine people.
With his January appointment to Game and Fish, he says he feels he has come full circle.
“I have a personal interest and ties back to when I really thought I was going to be a forest ranger,” he said.
He said he looks forward to managing state wildlife for future generations and making sure the ecosystems that support wildlife says intact.
He and his wife, Janet, to whom he has been married for 27 years, and he celebrated his 50th birthday last month on a Caribbean Cruise. Turning 50 has caused him to look back at his life and what he sees pleases him.
“From a Flagstaff perspective, I have had a wonderful life experience to be able to live and raise my daughter in Flagstaff. It is a very special place for me. I showed up here when I was 18. I learned a lot over my years,” he said. “I was able to go back and be a part of Flagstaff which has so many pieces and components that are politically different than the rest of Arizona. I couldn‘t have raised my daughter in a better place.”
“God has blessed me. I have been blessed by the people who have touched my life and who had an impact. I try to remind myself I have been extra blessed and fortunate.”
One of the most important things he has learned over the years is that change is constant.
“You can either embrace it or you get destroyed by it.”