ANTIOCH -- The new year will seem a little odd to Jim Davis.

That's because for the first time in 14 years, the one-term Antioch mayor, who served 10 years on the council before that, no longer has a full slate of weeknight meetings and events to attend.

After opting not to run for mayor, but instead seek a council seat, Davis, 55, lost election Nov. 6, finishing third in a field of five candidates.

He then unsuccessfully applied for appointment to the vacated seat of new Mayor Wade Harper.

Despite a tumultuous end to the year both personally and politically -- including losing his job of 26 years at Bank of the West because of company consolidation and having hernia surgery the day before the council appointment interviews -- Davis is at peace about the defeat, his tenure and future.

"I've always tried to put Antioch first, and put it on the map in a positive way," Davis said during a recent interview. "There are five generations of my family that live here. My involvement in the community is not going to stop; I have a vested interest."

Antioch experienced a boom in housing and retail growth during Davis' early years in office.

"When I got on the council, there seemed to be a new retailer or restaurant coming in on Lone Tree Way or at Slatten Ranch every week; it was just phenomenal," Davis said.

Plans also solidified for a community center in southeast Antioch in the mid-2000s, while the extra sales tax allowed the police department to expand its number of sworn officers and start community service officer, canine and volunteer programs.


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But those memories are almost bittersweet, Davis said.

Shortly after Davis became mayor, an abrupt collapse in the nation's housing market sent city finances into a tailspin. By 2010, Antioch's once-robust budget of $47 million dropped to near $34 million -- forcing Davis to give a warning at a meeting that May that the city could be headed toward bankruptcy.

"There were a lot of nights I couldn't sleep; it was on my mind all the time," Davis said.

Keeping Antioch solvent with a combination of cuts, furloughs, program reductions and employee concessions is what Davis points to as the greatest accomplishment for him and the council during his time as mayor.

Gone were all 20 community service officers, all 11 code enforcement officers and scores of other city employees.

"It was tough. Over the course of 14 years, you get to know the staff members personally. I worried about them," Davis said. "They are human beings. How were they going to provide for their families and make payments?"

Several community events have emerged over the past few years, including a Memorial Day event and Veterans Day parade, which the strongly patriotic Davis helped create.

"You can tell that he feels genuine compassion and cares. There's no agenda," said Josie Monaghan, founder of East County Military Family and Friends.

She met Davis back in 2006. "He puts a lot of his own time into it."

Willie Mims, a member of local chapters of the Black Political Association and NAACP, praised Davis during the Dec. 4 council meeting for his low-key, nonconfrontational leadership approach and consistently joining in on protests against violence in the Sycamore Drive neighborhood.

"Jim always brought a strong community perspective,¿" said Donald Freitas, Davis' main political rival over the years. "He made sure that people in the community were involved and engaged."

Freitas and Davis were both elected to the council in 1998 and ran against each other three times for mayor in some highly contentious battles.

Davis says he was criticized during that first run for being "bland or milquetoast," a label that has stuck with him over the years. He argues that his personality was needed given some of the city's past tumultuous meetings.

"He's quiet and reserved, but that never meant he didn't think out his positions," former Councilman Brian Kalinowski said. "He was always very thoughtful in his approach."

Davis has also been criticized as being aloof or not being accessible. He says it was tough without an administrative assistant at City Hall, and though many lunch breaks were spent in his car answering messages, one of Davis' regrets is not returning as many phone calls and emails as he would have liked.

Davis also regrets not being able to be on the council when the Highway 4 widening is completed, a project he lobbied for during his tenure.

"When I got on the council, public safety wasn't as big of a concern, but Highway 4 was the same as it had been in 1957," Davis said.

For now, Davis plans to still be active within the city, perhaps becoming a commissioner on the city's crime prevention commission or working to help residents set up neighborhood watch programs.

He also plans to continue work on the Veterans Day and Fourth of July parades, be a police volunteer with his wife, Susan, work with nonprofit An Elderly Wish and spend more time with his grandchildren.

"I have a vested interest in Antioch, that's not going to change," Davis said. "My children and grandchildren live here, and I worry about them."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.