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Transportation Equation

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Cycling through life, La Verne City Councilman Muir Davis aims to focus on a General Plan and Active Transportation Plan in partnership with other Council members that will coordinate the redesign of roads so that they serve cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists. / photo by Cortney Mace

Cycling through life, La Verne City Councilman Muir Davis aims to focus on a General Plan and Active Transportation Plan in partnership with other Council members that will coordinate the redesign of roads so that they serve cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists. / photo by Cortney Mace

by Crystian Mendoza
photography by Cortney Mace

“When I was about 12, my dad told me the average number of careers for people in my generation would be four. We have to keep ourselves engaged and learning new things,” says G. Muir Davis, husband, father and La Verne city councilman. A charismatic local who watched the 1974 construction of the Athletic Pavilion at the University of La Verne, Muir and his family have historic lineage in the La Verne community. “I wanted to follow the family footsteps and become a teacher,” he says, “but I enjoyed mathematics and wanted to see where it would take me, so I thought I might want to postpone my teaching career until later in life.” Following a family business venture, he spent 23 years in the energy field, much of that time with Southern California Edison as a senior project manager, where he was recognized as a problem solving guru.

While at PG&E National Energy Group in the early 2000s, Muir’s effort helped create a renewable credit energy market, which assisted companies in managing their waste and pollution—a direct result of their work. Through the program, these companies could then help shoulder the cost. An innovator, Muir believes in looking at the bigger picture instead of finding a bandage solution.

So how did a mathematical genius go from solving complex problems at power companies to becoming a local city councilman? Simple. The love for his community. Muir is a huge advocate for community building and solving transportation issues, and now that his youngest daughter is 11, he seized the opportunity after discovering that former council member Donna Redman was retiring. Plus, he had the full support of his family and friends. During his campaign, he emphasized the importance of active transportation and safety, which many residents of La Verne believe in too. “I think we can find a way to lighten the burden on our roadways through active transportation planning,” he says. “I want to find ways that we can make it easy and safe for residents to move around without having to jump into a car.” He has plans, anchored by his background in decision sciences, to rejuvenate the city’s fiscal budget and says his mathematical academic training allows him to see the big picture and to solve a variety of complex issues.

His family was thrilled with his election win. “I was very happy to hear he was elected, and proud,” says Carl Davis, president of Kappit Manufacturing and Muir’s eldest brother. “This is a good fit for Muir. I know he has nothing but respect for what La Verne has meant to him and his family. He will do his best to help La Verne maintain its small town charm and to balance out the need for the city to provide community services, expansion and maintain fiscal responsibility.”

Muir (named after and to honor esteemed La Verne College history and peace professor Gladdys Muir), was born in Elgin, Illinois to parents J. Rodney Davis and Dorothy Brandt Davis. His parents made the 1,957 mile move back to La Verne when he was 4 years old, and he has called La Verne home ever since. Both of his parents have made impressive La Verne historical contributions, as have his grandparents, who attended Lordsburg Academy, now the University of La Verne. His grandfather C. Ernest Davis was the 12th president of La Verne College from 1939-1948, and his mother’s father, Jesse C. Brandt, was a celebrated La Verne College dean. Brandt Residence Hall is named in his honor.

J. Rodney earned his B.A. degree at La Verne College in 1948; his M.A. in 1956 and his Ph.D. in 1961, the latter two degrees from Northwestern University. J. Rodney began working in the La Verne College public relations department and then was appointed as a psychology professor in the 1960s. Following, he became an administrator, developing and directing the La Verne Campus Accelerated Program for Adults, (CAPA). Muir’s mother Dorothy was born in La Verne and was first a fourth grade school teacher at Dalton Elementary School in Azusa, California, before teaching English and Art at Claremont High School.

Muir started his education at Roynon Elementary School in La Verne, followed by Ramona Junior High. He graduated from Bonita High School in 1979 where he was active in sports, including freshman football, running cross country his sophomore and junior years, and playing baseball during his four high school years. He led numerous high school clubs and organizations and was voted his senior year as having the “most school spirit,” along with Cathy Maidment. His successful application to the University of California, Berkeley led him to audition and win the chance to be Oski, the Berkeley golden bear mascot. His role as Oski is something he only recently shared with his closest friends. “For a number of years, I trained Oski; that’s how we phrased it,” says Muir. “So you were either a trainer or a guard; it was a very secretive group so not many people knew who you were.” At football games and spirit events, he was in costume hyping up the crowd. His charismatic personality, now not cloaked by a bear costume, is still animated. “It was really fun; I had a great time. I got to go to football games and run around on the field, and attend pep rallies where bands, like the Greg Kihn Band, would invite me on stage to play air guitar, and then I jumped into the crowd. I even got to ski in Aspen, Colorado as Oski too.” He recalls the rivalry between Stanford University and one scenario where he was wrestled down onto the floor at a basketball game by the opposing mascot, with guards having to step in and pull Oski out before the “tree ripped my head off.” “La Verne always felt like everyone was family. It was an interesting paradigm. Everybody knew me when I was growing up. I think that was part of the reason why I initially decided to go to Berkeley to study mathematics; I wanted to be anonymous for a little while.”

 CicLAvia held a ride called “Heart of the Foothills,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, which started in San Dimas on Bonita Avenue and passed through La Verne. The route proceeded to Arrow Highway, traveling through Pomona before ending in Claremont. CicLAvia is a non-profit organization that promotes alternative modes of transportation, good health and the usage of public spaces. The ride closed parts of Bonita Avenue and Arrow Highway to motorized vehicles for 6.5 miles. While the rotating event is centered around a safe environment for cyclists, it also allows pedestrians for one day to walk, run and skate freely in the street. / photo by Cortney Mace

CicLAvia held a ride called “Heart of the Foothills,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, which started in San Dimas on Bonita Avenue and passed through La Verne. The route proceeded to Arrow Highway, traveling through Pomona before ending in Claremont. CicLAvia is a non-profit organization that promotes alternative modes of transportation, good health and the usage of public spaces. The ride closed parts of Bonita Avenue and Arrow Highway to motorized vehicles for 6.5 miles. While the rotating event is centered around a safe environment for cyclists, it also allows pedestrians for one day to walk, run and skate freely in the street. / photo by Cortney Mace

When he was studying at Berkeley, he and his brothers were starting a family business on First Street in La Verne, west of White Avenue. Muir was set in 1984 to start his fourth year at Berkeley, but working with his brothers full time at Kappit Manufacturing became his priority. His commitment actually began the year prior when he traveled to the East Coast to research collegiate merchandising and marketing. “It was exciting,” says Muir. “It took my focus and time and was the primary reason for taking a break from school.” Kappit made logo merchandise such as caps, tote bags and clothing, much of which was sold at major universities around the country. He continued to work with his two brothers until 1993. “Starting a business, looking back, was the next progression of our sibling relationships,” says Carl. “Eric, being the artist, me putting things together, and Muir’s expertise with numbers seemed to line up with the production of something great. Muir brought a financial stability to the company, giving us the day-to-day responsibilities budget wise and the resourcing of materials.” Each of the Davis brothers had a specific role that was essential to the functioning of the business as they worked together.

With the business stable, Muir went back to school and graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 1990 with a B.S. degree in Business Operations, which concentrates on applied math for business. “You essentially look at the functions of operations or the cost structure of products, then recognizing that you have limited resources, you use linear algebra or matrix algebra to form the landscape of the business,” he says. “Then, using an opportunity cost function, you try to maximize your profits or maximize your utilization—essentially finding the best value for you.” Being a mathematician, Muir says he brings this talent to city government, where he evaluates complex community issues while taking into consideration all potential outcomes as well as the results of those outcomes. There is no cutting corners when it comes to math, and Muir says his quantitative analysis helps answer questions the community has yet to solve.

After graduating from Cal Poly, he worked at Southern California Edison from 1993-96, followed by a brief stint at Calpine Power Services Company from 1996-97. His next move took him to San Francisco, where he worked at PG&E Energy Services Company, and then to Bethesda, Maryland. He returned to Southern California Edison in 2002, which is his current employer.

Following the return to Edison, he earned two master’s degrees at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Business at Claremont Graduate University: Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Financial Engineering. It was at CGU that he met his wife Michelle. The couple have four children: Emma, 11; Marley, 15; Michael, 18; and Joshua Burns, 25.

At present, La Verne’s active transportation plan is in the developmental phase, with other Council members sharing their ideas and supporting Muir’s vision. That vision includes “complete streets”—the design of streets for multiple uses. “Complete streets consider bicyclists, pedestrians, stroller use along with automobiles as equal stakeholders, allowing one to use and cross streets easily,” he says. The plan will also include plenty of signage for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians as well as clearly painted roadways. The active transportation plan ultimately has a goal to accommodate pathways for everyone within the community. “I hope that La Verne’s active transportation plan addresses cycling interests and needs on several levels.” Included, he says should be “bicycle routes for folks who want interesting loops for exercise and personal interest; pathways for school children getting to and from school; routes for commuters and others. I think that La Verne has a wealth of resources and roadways for cycling opportunities.” Beyond dedicated class one bike paths should be residential bike usage, he says. “If we can figure out ways to make it easier for bicycles to use those residential side streets, then it makes the process a whole lot easier.” As a child, Muir spent much time on those streets playing with his cousins, which is why he values the importance of safety on the community’s roadways.

Since he is a major advocate for active transportation, he was excited when the University of La Verne provided a method for bicycles to be rented by La Verne students. ULV spring 2018 started a SPIN Bike Share program giving students access to a bicycle for 50 cents every half-hour. “I think that this opportunity for students is great,” says Muir. “It is like a book at a library. You check it out. Use it. Then return it.” He also wants to make sure that roadways across the city are suitable for riding. “There is a concept of having bicycles available for people to just hop on and go, but I want to make sure we have the infrastructure on both ends to accommodate the bicycles and the pathways to get there.”

With his passion for cycling, he enjoyed this year’s CicLAvia event. “I participated with the mayor and other Council members at events throughout the day. I rode to both ends of the event with our Council as well as with Assemblymember Chris Holden. It was awesome!” Muir believes the event as well as the number of participants shows the potential that La Verne has when it comes to active transportation.

“I like the challenges of, ‘Here’s something new,’ and ‘We don’t know what the answer is.’ I’m confident creating and using algorithms, the rigor and the logic to make it work; it has ultimately set me up for what I like—which is solving the problems that haven’t been solved. My mathematical approach lets me analyze a problem and say, ‘Here’s the path we’ll take.’ That will lead us to the answer, and it will be a good answer. It’s not the only answer, but it’s a valid and strong answer because of the process we used to get there,” he says.

Through his applied rigor, aptitude for solving complex mathematical equations and love for community, G. Muir Davis will continue to actively strive to find solutions for La Verne’s community challenges. ■

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