Davis says he’s a dif­fer­ent sort of leader

Cred­its team­work for past year’s suc­cesses

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

When Premier Paul Davis sat down with The Com­pass last week in Pla­cen­tia for his first in­ter­view about this past year, it was not all busi­ness.

The leader of the pro­vin­cial Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives be­gan the con­ver­sa­tion beam­ing about his nephew, lo­cal man Robert Slaney. Slaney, who is a na­tive of Up­per Is­land Cove, pre­vi­ously played pro­fes­sional hockey in the Amer­i­can Hockey League and re­cently be­gan med­i­cal school at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity of New­found­land.

It’s a side of Davis that isn’t usu­ally ap­par­ent when he’s in front of a cam­era or be­hind a mi­cro­phone.

Although the ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion was short, Davis was quick to men­tion that fam­ily is im­por­tant to him, and his ref­er­ence to Slaney was just a small piece of a much larger puz­zle.

That fam­ily con­nec­tion is where be­com­ing Premier had its start.

De­cid­ing to run

He met with his wife Ch­eryl and oth­ers to dis­cuss the idea of run­ning for leader of the PCs last June. It was some­thing they didn’t take lightly.

“One of the dis­cus­sions Ch­eryl, my close fam­ily and friends had was what would life be like and what’s the im­pact on fam­ily, and also the im­pact on me,” he ex­plained.

Once de­ter­min­ing that changes would take place and he would have to adapt to a new job role, ev­ery­one was on board.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a gru­elling pace,” he ex­plained. “We knew it was go­ing to be con­stant pres­sure. We knew that we were go­ing to have to deal with mat­ters that we didn’t want to have to deal with. Not ev­ery­thing is good. You deal with things where the cir­cum­stances are not al­ways won­der­ful, great sto­ries, but also chal­lenges.”

It was af­ter he was cho­sen as PC leader and the new­est premier of the province that things be­gan to feel real.

Thick skin

Co­in­ci­den­tally, the Pla­cen­tia Bay In­dus­trial Show­case was the first event he at­tended last year as premier. It was also where he met with The Com­pass last Wed­nes­day.

“Oh yeah, it’s been a year,” Davis laughed.

Davis step­ping into the premier’s role was a steady pro­gres­sion. He be­gan his jour­ney as a Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary of­fi­cer and took on board po­si­tions with dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions and agen­cies.

He ran for coun­cil in Conception Bay South and even­tu­ally be­came the deputy mayor. Af­ter sev­eral years on coun­cil, Davis de­cided to try his hand at pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics, and won the Top­sail seat in a 2010 by­elec­tion.

With each step, Davis had to de­velop a thicker skin.

“You have to grow one (in train­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer) be­cause once you get out into the real world you bet­ter have that thick skin to be able to take some of those things that hap­pen to you,” he ex­plained.

Once he en­tered mu­nic­i­pal and pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics, he be­gan de­velop a dif­fer­ent kind of thick skin. He ex­plained there are times when peo­ple at­tack politi­cians and their char­ac­ter pub­licly, on so­cial media and even to their faces. But it’s some­thing he has be­come used to over the years and he’s learned to not let things get to him.

Year of change

Af­ter Davis was sworn in as premier, he de­cided to take what he con­sid­ered an un­con­ven­tional ap­proach to lead­er­ship.

“I think that my ap­proach to lead­er­ship is dif­fer­ent from any we’ve ever had in the history of the province,” he ex­plained.

One of the things he prides him­self on is in­volv­ing his cau­cus in dif­fer­ent de­ci­sions and com­mit­tees based on their per­sonal knowl­edge. Even if they are not the min­is­ter of a cer­tain depart­ment, Davis takes in­put from ev­ery­one that sits in his gov­ern­ing party.

“Mem­bers of cau­cus that I know have ex­per­tise or back­grounds, I’ll call them and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”

Hard­est part

Chal­lenges are some­thing all lead­ers must face, and for Davis, he’s had his fair share.

This past year has been a dif­fi­cult one in terms of oil rev­enues, and Davis ad­mits he’s been tak­ing a pretty big hit be­cause of it.

“Oil prices have prob­a­bly been the big­gest im­pact over­all. And some peo­ple that say, 'What are you do­ing about oil prices?' Well, we don’t con­trol oil prices. There’s no­body in the province that con­trols oil prices,” he said.

Although he takes a lot of slack for the oil prices, he re­minds peo­ple that Water­ford Val­ley High was one of the in­vest­ments that was fea­si­ble thanks to oil funds. As was Cor­ner Brook In­ter­me­di­ate, which was a for­mer school that re­ceived a whole new look.

He also had to face a “tough bud­get” and has a deficit this year, but he calls it a suc­cess be­cause the province's econ­omy is hold­ing strong.

Trin­ity Conception

With plenty of things hap­pen­ing in Trin­ity Conception, Davis is fre­quently mak­ing vis­its.

Some­thing he sees get­ting stronger in the com­ing years is the econ­omy of Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace and he wants to show his sup­port.

“That’s the type of in­vest­ments where a busi­ness owner who is think­ing about open­ing a new res­tau­rant and owns some land next door, says ‘I think it’s time for me now to build this new res­tau­rant.’”

And as for the province, he doesn’t care what naysay­ers are preach­ing.

“As New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans we’re very re­silient,” he said. “We’ll get things done. We’re not go­ing to be­come all doom and gloom. I don’t think any­one wants to sub­scribe to that.”

Premier Paul Davis chats with for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MHA Terry French at the Pla­cen­tia Bay In­dus­trial Show­case in Pla­cen­tia on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 23.

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