San Bernardino Mayor-elect Carey Davis

Mayor-elect Carey Davis, an accountant and political newcomer, is taking the helm of San Bernardino at a particularly troubled time: The city is in bankruptcy, crime has risen, and residents say basic services aren’t being delivered. (Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times / February 13, 2014)

By Rick Rojas
March 1, 2014, 4:56 p.m.

Sitting in a spare office on the sixth floor of City Hall, a sweeping view of San Bernardino behind him, the incoming mayor paused a conversation and picked up a ringing phone. It was somebody wanting to know what time the office closed.

“I don’t think I was supposed to answer that,” he said, cracking a smile.

Carey Davis didn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t yet know his way around City Hall. If anything, the 61-year-old accountant sees his status as a political newcomer as an advantage as he takes the helm of a deeply troubled city.

San Bernardino is bankrupt, the result of costly pension obligations and a tax base that evaporated as businesses fled. Crime has risen and residents say basic city services aren’t being delivered. Roads are pocked, parks poorly maintained.

Many say that has led to a sense of apathy, a notion reflected in low voter turnout. Only about 15% of registered voters cast ballots in the runoff election last month that Davis won, or about 12,000 voters in a city of about 210,000 people.

“The condition of the city is certainly less than desirable compared to when I knew it a long time ago,” he said, adding that he aims “to change the legacy for future generations … and to help the city achieve the potential that I think is possible.”

He entered the political fray in San Bernardino at a particularly rough moment: A recall effort pushed out the longtime city attorney and the city councilwoman whom Davis would later defeat in the mayoral race. Two other members of the City Council faced criminal charges — one of whom, also a candidate for mayor, resigned as part of a guilty plea. The other was voted out of office.

But as Davis prepares to take office, that means he will be joined by others who are new to politics, and some in the city are choosing to embrace it as an opportunity for a fresh start.

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