Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 2:27 am | Overcast 64º


Noozhawk Talks: Amid Success in Public Relations, John Davies Finds Joy in the Personal

Pride in family, clients drives energetic public affairs specialist's next phase of focus

“We never win any awards when I go,” laughed John Davies, with a good-natured twinkle in his eye. “If I send someone else we win, but not if I’m there.”

He must send his staff to a lot of award dinners.

Davies Public Affairs, his Santa Barbara-based national public relations company, has won hundreds of awards for its work, including recent honors from the Public Relations Society of America for its community relations work on behalf of Texas-based power producer GenOn Energy and public affairs work for Arizona’s Rosemont Copper.

But it is the awards for creating a great work environment — the firm was recently awarded PR News’ “Top Places to Work in PR” and has been given The Holmes Report’s Top Agency to Work For award for eight consecutive years (2004-2011) — that Davies holds even dearer.

“The greatest tool we have is we have to have really good people,” said Davies, chatting on a rare quiet day in his office at El Paseo. “That is our biggest priority and that is my constant deal — the care and feeding of our staff, making sure they are happy.

“We are better at growing our own staff than hiring them,” admitted Davies, who founded the company in 1982 and now has around 50 employees.

His first project back then was to help Santa Barbara County school board member Jack O’Connell get elected to the Assembly. (O’Connell, a Democrat, went on to serve 12 years in the Assembly and eight years in the state Senate before winning election to two terms as California’s superintendent of public instruction.)

Davies has since worked on many political campaigns (locally for Brooks Firestone and Dan Secord) but in recent years, the company focus has shifted toward the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, real estate, energy and mining industries.

His personal energies have also shifted considerably. Married at age 40 to his wife, Nina, Davies is now a devoted father to Jack (18, a freshman at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.), Carys (16, a student at Providence Hall in Santa Barbara) and Morgan (14, a student at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village).

“I travel a lot (about 250,000 miles a year) and I have my family and I don’t play golf,” he said. “I don’t have a minute that isn’t busy.

“I don’t like to be away. After two days I’m really, really lonely and I want to be with my kids. Having my son going to college reminds me of how short it is. Being an older dad, I think I knew watching my friends, because my friends were at this point when our kids were really young, and I could see them being tortured.

“It was probably one of my hardest days dropping my son off at college. I was so happy with the college he chose, so happy with where he was, but oh gosh ...”

For the past seven years the close-knit Davies family has joined with a handful of other local families to support Acres of Love, a home for AIDS orphans in Johannesburg, South Africa. With more than $2 million invested-to-date, including the purchase of three houses, the group provides the operational costs to raise eight children — Davies’ kids call them their “brothers and sisters in Africa” — in a loving, healthy environment, with the best possible education.

Education is important to Davies, who has been a board member of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara since 1984, was board president at El Montecito School for more than 10 years and was appointed as a trustee of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education. He’s also been an active volunteer and board member for Computers for Families, Santa Barbara Partners in Education, the UCSB Athletic Director’s Roundtable, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project and Santa Barbara Middle School. He just stepped down after a third term as chairman of the Westmont College Foundation Board, and is in charge of the annual Westmont President’s Breakfast, which is set for March 1 and will feature retired Gen. Colin Powell as the keynote speaker.

If he weren’t busy enough, Davies is also involved with the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce, Unity Shoppe, Adventures in Caring Foundation, served as a deacon and elder at El Montecito Presbyterian Church and recently became an elder at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara.

“It has been really moving and interesting,” Davies said of his new role at Calvary Chapel. “Sometimes when you take leadership it’s about what you’re doing when you’re helping. This is more what happens to you while you’re doing it. ... This is more of a gift than it is a duty. I get more in return.”

Setting a philanthropic example for his children, a few years ago Davies challenged his then 15-year-old son, Jack, to look beyond the comforts of his Santa Barbara life and do something for others. With some behind-the-scenes guidance from their parents, Jack, along with fellow teens Spencer Dusebout and Scott Schurmer, founded Hands 4 Others (h4o), now a national youth movement to provide clean water around the world.

“The whole deal is healthy Third-World water, but mostly it’s raising up a generation that understands that they have the ability to do this,” he said. “It’s been really fun. I mean, sometimes there’s a bumpy road, but that’s part of the learning process. With most nonprofits, you’d get frustrated.

“With this, it’s the joy that they’re learning,” said Davies, who cites as one of his proudest moments watching Jack speak to nearly 1,000 villagers as he dedicated the first H4O water system in a remote area of Kenya.

In that case, at least, John Davies was present for the win after all.

Noozhawk contributing writer Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >