Dirk Brazil Takes Over As Davis City Manager

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Dirk Brazil surrounded by his city council gives a few remarks on Wednesday night.

On Monday, Dirk Brazil took over as Davis’ new city manager. Prior to the council meeting on Wednesday evening, the city had a small reception for the new city manager.

Mayor Dan Wolk told a group of elected officials, former county staffers, and some friends of the community, “I think I speak for the entire city council when I say, we’re very glad Dirk is here.”

Dirk Brazil served as Assistant County Administrator for Yolo County for eight years prior to his hire a few weeks ago by the city, replacing former City Manager Steve Pinkerton who left in April, and Interim City Manager Gene Rogers who left after last week.

Mr. Brazil is a 16-year resident of Davis.

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Dirk Brazil speaking, with Rochelle Swanson and Dan Wolk looking on

An emotional Dirk Brazil joked that when he took the job and agreed to start on November 3, he saw that the agenda called for his first meeting on November 18. A new meeting was quickly moved to November 5.

“This is a really great opportunity for me to really work in my community and do something of real value,” said Mr. Brazil. “Now I get to work in Davis with people that I know, issues that I know, I really am passionate about the outcomes whatever the issue.”

He said, “32, 33 years ago, I once worked for the paint crew for the city of Davis… I got a job painting all the red curbs in the city of Davis.” He joked, “It was great. It was the best job I ever had.”

During his time as Assistant County Administrator, Mr. Brazil worked on economic development, inter-government relations, natural resources management, legislative affairs, climate change/sustainability projects, and other regional initiatives, according to the city’s release.

Davis City Council welcomes Dirk Brazil as new City Manager
Davis City Council welcomes Dirk Brazil as new City Manager

Mr. Brazil brings with him knowledge on a number of regional and intergovernmental projects, including the Downtown University Gateway District (Nishi), the Woodland-Davis water project, UC Davis’ Seed Central and Food Central efforts, the Yolo County Climate Compact, the Innovation Park proposal process, the Yolo Natural Heritage Program, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and Community Choice Aggregation, the city release said.

Prior to the Yolo County position, Mr. Brazil’s professional experience included positions as: District Director for then-State Assemblymember Lois Wolk; Chief Deputy in the California Department of Fish and Game; Chief Deputy in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Policy Director for Gray Davis during his tenure as State Controller and Lieutenant Governor, as well as a variety of leadership positions in the California State Legislature, the release continued.

Mr. Brazil is married to Nora, a Davis elementary school teacher/librarian, and has two college age children. Mr. Brazil has an MA in Public Policy from Claremont Graduate School, a BA in Political Science from UC Davis, and he graduated from the Executive Management Program at the University of Washington and was a Coro Foundation Fellow.

Dirk Brazil talks to Councilmember Brett Lee
Dirk Brazil talks to Councilmember Brett Lee

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Dirk Brazil speaks with former employer Senator Lois Wolk
Dirk Brazil speaks with former employer Senator Lois Wolk

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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18 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Welcome Dirk !  I wish you the best. Let’s hope that you will also be able to say of being the Davis City Manager :

    “It was great. It was the best job I ever had.”

  2. Gunrocik

    Mayor Dan Wolk told a group of elected officials, former county staffers, and some friends of the community, “I think I speak for the entire city council when I say, we’re very glad Dirk is here.”

    Translation:  I’d like to thank Mommy and Craig for chairing the defacto selection committee and finding the one person malleable enough to ensure smooth waters for my campaign for State Senate.  I’d also like to thank Rochelle for succumbing to our unrelenting pressure to be the third vote, and I’d also like to thank Brett for going along with this when he realized he didn’t have three votes for a candidate actually qualified for the position.

    1. Barack Palin

      Cue the music

      It’s a family affair
      It’s a family affair
      It’s a family affair
      It’s a family affair

      Take notice who has the biggest smiles in the top picture.

    2. Eskimo Pie

      I assume, of course, that you have evidence to support your claim that Rochelle succumbed to “unrelenting pressure to be the third vote”, and didn’t support Dirk from the beginning. Or that Brett just went “along with this when he realized he didn’t have three votes”. Or that you know of other candidates “actually qualified for the position”. Most importantly, I would love to know which council member shared this information with you, as these discussions were a confidential, closed session matter.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i think it’s pretty much a given that brett went along because he realized he didn’t have three votes.  rochelle from what i’ve heard is more nuanced.

        2. Eskimo Pie

          I get that it’s a “given” or common wisdom or whatever, but my question is why? Is it simply based on the fact that Brett has split with Dan and Lucas on previous votes, and Dirk Brazil is perceived as being friendly to fire (based, I suppose, on his past professional association with Senator Wolk)? Or is there other evidence/statements to back that up that I am unaware of?

          Here is the evidence as I see it:

          Dirk Brazil worked for Senator Wolk when she was in the Assembly. No one is denying that. And given that they all appear still to be friendly, I think it is safe to assume they don’t have wildly different views on the issues. Though I would stop short of assuming they would be in “lockstep”.

          Dan, Lucas Brett and Rochelle voted for Dirk. Robb abstained. I think it is safe to assume Robb preferred another candidate, be it for policy, qualifications, or who-knows-what. There is no evidence, however, that any of the other council members preferred anyone except Dirk.

          That is it. That’s all the evidence that exists. Again, unless I am missing a statement that is out there from a council member, or Dirk Brazil himself, or other votes that were taken that have been made public, none of which I am aware of, all this talk about who preferred whom and who pressured whom and who just went along because he didn’t have the votes is 100% pure speculation.

  3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    It seemed to me there was a lot of good feeling for Mr. Brazil, last night, a lot of hope and faith that he is well suited for the city manager’s job and will be a good fit for Davis. I did not stay for the Council meeting, but the gathering beforehand was very well attended and seemed to have attracted a very wide array of our residents.

    But, as I mentioned to Lucas Frerichs, the widespread good feeling is always at its zenith right now, before any hard decisions have to be made and before anyone feels they are on the losing side. Some in that antechamber will not be pleased with all the choices the city makes under the leadership of Dirk Brazil.

    I personally have high hopes for him. He worked hand-in-hand with Patrick Blacklock at Yolo County, and Mr. Blacklock is a very able public executive, and word I have received as background is that Brazil did a good job and was a trusted lieutenant of Blacklock’s. Another thing which strikes me as a big positive from the start is that Dirk has lived in Davis for many years (16) and as a result he is both invested in the success of our city and our community and he likely has a very good understanding of the Davis civic culture. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the latter attribute.

    While there are many different ways to be an effective executive, I think it is fundamentally important is to understand the culture in which you are working and adapt your methods to that. Not all people can adapt and change as necessary. They often have just one way of doing things. It’s possible, or even probable, that there are some highly effective city managers in our region who would fail in Davis because the political culture here would be a bad fit for their management styles.

    Hopefully, and I think probably, Dirk Brazil understands Davis well enough already to know what the citizens, the Council and the employees of the city expect and need from him and he will be able to deliver on that for many years. One of our big regional challenges is to fix our roads, not just in Davis but in Yolo County as well. And on that score, due to his work for the county, he already knows the problem and probably has some ideas of how to best address it.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “It seemed to me there was a lot of good feeling for Mr. Brazil, last night”

      that wasn’t because he had all his friends and his wife’s friends there – or so i heard from those there.  lois wolk, craig reynolds, richard harris, don saylor, sheila allen…

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Yes, the people you mention were there. But I am not in that crowd and I was there. David Greenwald was there. And, as noted before, I saw a very wide variety of people there to congratulate him on getting the job and wishing him well in his endeavors. Anyone, in my opinion, who does not, at this point, have high hopes for Mr. Brazil is likely not a fair-minded person and might even be letting bias get in the way. … That said, once Dirk does something on the job where there is some kind of division in our community it is inevitable that will be held against him by those who either think he failed them or he did not go far enough. Most likely, on some issues, I will be one of those. But I have never expected anyone to be perfect, and I always try to understand, when people draw conclusions different from my own, that they might have good reason to have a different point of view as to what is desirable or possible. The only time I really get upset with public officials who, in my view, don’t do the right thing is when they appear to have a conflict of interest, where their personal ambitions seem to have trumped the public interest. That is especially true among those who accept campaign funds from people whose income comes from the city’s decisions.

    2. Alan Miller

      “Another thing which strikes me as a big positive from the start is that Dirk has lived in Davis for many years (16) and as a result he is both invested in the success of our city”

      I’ve lived in Davis for over twice that long, and, based on that, I’m still wondering why the City Council didn’t pick me.  Oh, yeah, probably because:  1)  I didn’t apply; 2)  I have no applicable experience; and 3)  I’m a bit of an ass.

      1. Miwok

        Some people work or even move away for years with a dream of coming back, or at least living and working in the same town. To be able to contribute at that level would be great.

        1. Alan Miller

          And then there are the lone misfits whom no one remembers that move away for years with a dream of coming back to the same town to exact revenge on those who wronged them in high school.

          Pardon, that was the plot to some 1970’s movie I saw at 2:00am on some off-broadcast channel last week.

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    By the way … In the second to last picture, where there is no caption, the person speaking with Dirk Brazil is Jeff Pelz, who was a classmate of mine at Davis High School. Jeff’s father, Dave, eponym for the Dave Pelz Overpass from South Davis to Mace Ranch, was the city’s public works director for decades.

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