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					        Dan Davidson
          A Tribute to Teamwork

Page 22 | Landmarks 2007
                                  STORY: LAURA GUTSCHKE
                                     PHOTO: ARTIE LIMMER
             ETERINARY MEDICINE WAS                       Two friends invited Davidson to Texas Tech
             in Dan Davidson’s (B.S., Horticul-        after his discharge. Right away he liked the cam-
             ture and Parks Management, 1959)          pus, academic program and people of Lubbock.
             future, until a tour of duty in Eu-          “Texas Tech had one of the first programs
             rope during the Korean War kindled        that focused on the practical use of horticulture
an admiration for the old European landscaped          that was saddled with training in parks manage-
parks, roads, arbors and gardens. His new ca-          ment,” said Davidson.
reer path centered on planned developments,            FIRST PARKS PROJECT
first as a parks planner and later in Austin’s city        For a senior team project, Davidson was part
management. Davidson concluded his city man-           of a team that presented a redesign plan for
agement career as Austin’s city manager.               White Rock Lake Park to the Dallas Parks Board
  Today, Davidson lives in Austin and is a part-       in the Petroleum Building. Word of the project
ner in a land development company and co-own-          reached San Antonio city manager Lynn An-
er of a wholesale tree business. His reputation as     drews, who saw the project and hired Davidson
a successful, ethical businessman is balanced by       as a city planner in 1959. While working for the
an equally noble regard for his volunteer work.        city for more than two years, Davidson moon-
  “He’s Mr. Wonderful. You would be hard               lighted weekends, selling trees, shrubs and land-
pressed to find anyone who didn’t think the best        scaping supplies.
about Dan. He’s a family man, he has high mor-
als, he’s civic-minded, he’s hard-working,” said
Malcolm Cooper, senior vice president of RBC
                                                       DAVIDSON DOESN’T
                                                       SEE A NEED TO RETIRE
Dain Rauscher in Austin who has known David-
son for 33 years.
  A few years past the traditional retirement age
of 65, Davidson doesn’t see a need to retire any
time soon, despite the gentle nudging of his wife      ANY TIME SOON
of 52 years, Phyllis.                                     When Andrews moved to St. Petersburg, Flor-
  “I still work long hours, and she’d like me to re-   ida, to be city manager, he hired Davidson as a
tire, but I’m not ready to do that yet,” said David-   deputy city manager. The two moved to Austin in
son. “I don’t want to slow down just right now.”       similar positions in 1969.
  Such a sentiment is not surprising for a man            “Every job I had with city management involved
who worked full-time while carrying a full load        working closely with the parks department,” said
at Texas Tech to support himself, Phyllis, and the     Davidson. “I’ve always admired and loved to plant
first of their five children.                            things, even when growing up in Clayton.”
  Davidson was raised in Clayton, New Mexico,
                                                       THE AUSTIN BOOM
and worked on the family’s two nearby ranches.
                                                         Davidson’s move to Austin came as technology
As a member of 4-H, he showed steers, heif-
                                                       companies IBM, Texas Instruments, Motorola,
ers and bulls. He attended one semester at the
                                                       Abbott Laboratories and others were expand-
University of New Mexico, where he met Phyl-
                                                       ing operations in the city. “Silicon Hills” became
lis, before volunteering for a two-year stint with
                                                       Austin’s nickname as commercial growth added
the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Germany for
                                                       to Austin’s skyline and population.
about a year.

                                                                                                            Page 23
                                                       “In the early 1970s, Austin was around 58th in        • “We were able to improve the city’s financial
                                                     population in the nation, but year after year, it          ratings, which were already good, but we were
                                                     would be in the top 10 in the nation in terms of dol-      able to make them better. If it was rated AA,
                                                     lar value of building permits issued,” said Davidson.      we were able to bump it to AAA or from A to
                                                       When appointed city manager in 1972, David-              AA, depending on the bond category”.
                                                     son’s goal was to bring together the finest em-          “Dan loves Austin for all the right reasons,” said
                                                     ployees to manage Austin’s growth in a way that            Matthews. “I know this sounds corny, but he
                                                     best served the public.                                    literally is one of those people who made a
                                                       “As city manager I worked with unbelievable              major difference in Austin.”
                                                     mayors and city council members who saw what               A local newspaper described Davidson as a
                                                     was going on and allowed me to hire the very            “pragmatic conservative,” which some politicians
                                                     best department managers,” said Davidson.               viewed well and others did not, he said. But, the
                                                        In addition to working with elected officials,        caliber of Davidson’s skills are evident in three
                                                     Davidson and his staff collaborated with 46             awards from the International City Manager’s As-
                                                                                                             sociation: in 1980 he received the L.P. Cooking-
                                                                                                             ham Award for management development and
                                                                                                             the Management Innovation Award for energy
                                                                                                             conservation and environmental programs. The
                                                                                                             next year, the group presented him the Carolyn
                                                                                                             Keene Award for development of programs for
                                                                                                             the handicapped. Each of these awards is pre-
                                                                                                             sented to only one person a year.
                                                                                                                “These awards would not have been pos-
                                                                                                             sible without the excellent staff and department
                                                                                                             heads, and the fine mayors and council members
                                                                                                             that I worked with,” Davidson said.
                                                                                                             PRIVATE SECTOR
                                                                                                                After 22 years in municipal management, Da-
                                                                                                             vidson entered the private sector in 1981 as an
                                                                                                             executive vice president for homebuilder Nash
                                                                                                             Phillips/Copus, Inc. Five years later, he joined
                                                                                                             Lufkin-based Lumbermen’s Investment Corp. as
                                                                                                             senior vice president and president of its Temple
                                                                                                             Inland Properties. Davidson remained in Austin
                                                                                                             to oversee the company’s development of subdi-
                                                                                                             visions and commercial property.
                                                                                                                In 1991, Davidson joined current partner C.W.
                                                     public boards and committees that usually were
                                                                                                             Hetherly as a vice president for Lampting Inc., a
   TREE OF CHOICE                                    comprised of three to 12 citizens.
                                                                                                             real estate and investment firm whose develop-
      The Cedar Elm is growing in popularity—           “Dan’s a classic example of there’s no limit to
                                                                                                             ments include subdivisions in the Austin-area
   with landscape architects, nurserymen and         what you can accomplish if you’re not concerned
                                                                                                             cities of Austin, Cedar Park and Kyle. That same
   homeowners. It’s also Davidson’s favorite         with who gets the credit,” said Steve Matthews,
                                                                                                             year, the two purchased the 24-acre Austin Tree
   tree these days because of its hardiness and      attorney and president of Steve T. Matthews Com-
                                                                                                             Farm (now 50-acre).
   ability to thrive in many different soils.        pany in Austin. Matthews’ dad, who was a city
                                                                                                                The farm had only about 2,500 trees, had not
      “It stays shades of green throughout the       manager of San Antonio and later executive direc-
                                                                                                             been replanted in four years and was in general
   growing season and then turns golden in           tor of the Texas Municipal League, first introduced
                                                                                                             disrepair. The farm’s one advantage, however,
   the fall. It grows 70 feet tall. It has uplift-   him to Davidson, and today Matthews and David-
                                                                                                             was its location along the Colorado River. The
   ing branches, but it is also compact. It has      son volunteer for many of the same groups.
                                                                                                             rich soil along the riverbank is the ideal mix of
   the kind of tree canopy artists like to paint.       As Davidson talks about his accomplishments
                                                                                                             clay and sandy loam for field-grown trees that
   It has very few insect or disease problems,”      as city manager, he uses “we” and not “I” when
                                                                                                             can be dug, balled and wrapped in burlap for de-
   Davidson said.                                    listing some highlights:
                                                                                                             livery to nurseries, Davidson said.
      “We started growing these trees about          • “We got the city council to agree to a five-year
                                                                                                                He initially devoted about 65 percent of his
   four years after we bought the farm. I had           plan” that outlined growth for city services,
                                                                                                             time to managing the farm. For the first two-and-
   hardly known anything about it, but land-            such as water lines, libraries, street develop-
                                                                                                             one-half years, the farm saw no income as equip-
   scape architects got to liking it after they         ment and parks.
                                                                                                             ment and irrigation systems were improved and
   were looking for a replacement for certain        • “We put together bond packages that
                                                                                                             seedlings planted. Since then, former customers
   Oak trees because of the Oak Wilt Disease.”          voters approved.”
                                                                                                             have been wooed back and new ones cultivated

Page 24 | Landmarks 2007
                                                                                                        “We are really meeting a niche market. People
                                                 DAN DAVIDSON’S ADVICE FOR                           who have experience with field-grown trees re-
                                                 TODAY’S STUDENTS                                    ally like them. They know how to handle them,
                                                • Work hard, both individually and as a              and they come to prefer them,” said Davidson.
                                                  team player. “I value teamwork and hard            COMMUNITY SERVICE
                                                  work. When I used to have a lot of employ-            Davidson’s story is also one of devoted volunteer.
                                                  ees, I talked to them about that a lot,” Da-          “The No. 1 thing Dan brings to any group is
                                                  vidson said. He also advises that students         the willingness to work hard. Secondly, he also
                                                  think ahead to how their actions will af-          has the ability to, politely and with consider-
                                                  fect an entire team of coworkers.                  ation, keep people on task without making them
                                                • Learn to communicate. Take one course              feel pressured,” said Cooper.
                                                  in public speaking and one course in tech-            Davidson has held several officers’ positions
                                                  nical writing, he suggests. “With today’s          with the Rotary Club of Austin, including presi-
                                                  high-tech world and fast pace of informa-          dent. He also is a past president of the Boy Scouts
                                                  tion, we tend to lose the personal touch in        Capital Area Council, past director of the Austin
                                                  how we communicate with one another,”              Area Chamber of Commerce and past president
                                                  Davidson said.                                     of Mount Wesley Conference Center. Davidson is
                                                • Be ethical. “Students need to understand           a member of Northwest Hills United Methodist
                                                  the need for strong personal ethics and            Church and chairman of its Building Committee.
                                                  how they can develop a standard on their           While director of the Chamber of Commerce, Da-
                                                  own that everyone can admire. Students             vidson helped launch the nonprofit Keep Austin
                                                  in the past did not hear much talk about           Beautiful organization.
                                                  ethics, but there are now courses on it,              “I think volunteering is a way to give back to
                                                  and I applaud that,” Davidson said.                a community that has been home to me and my
                                                • Participate in a civic club. “There’s lots to go   family since 1969,” said Davidson. “And, I really
                                                  around, and young people can get a great           do think people benefit personally when they
                                                  deal in giving to an organization their            help in their community.”
                                                  time, their ideas and their money,” said              Davidson is a humble man who has condensed
                                                  Davidson. “And, they should support their          his 47-year career to a one-page resume. And, his
                                                  college and their university.”                     community activities take up as much room on
                                                                                                     that sheet as his job listings. He also speaks affec-
                                               throughout the Southwest. Two land purchases          tionately of his wife Phyllis and her support dur-
 FACT FILE                                     have expanded the farm to 50 acres, and be-           ing the years.
• Married Phyllis in March 1954. The couple    tween 25,000 and 45,000 trees are in the ground          “This is one of those cases where the nice guy
  has five children: Mike (B.A. 1978); Dana     at any one time. An experienced nurseryman to-        finishes first. He truly is a nice guy,” said Cooper.
  and her husband, Mickey Rocco, who have      day runs day-to-day operations and oversees a         “He combines living nice with being a successful
  three children; Doug and his wife, Debbie,   staff of six.                                         businessman and family man.”
  who have two children; Jeff, who has two
  children; and Matt.
• Davidson enjoys family trips and other

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