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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Meet the Davis City Council

The city of Davis has five councilmembers who are elected by district


By THE CITY NEWS DESK — city@theaggie.org


The city of Davis has five councilmembers, including a mayor and vice mayor, who serve four-year terms. City council elections are held every two years and are held via district elections. The city of Davis is divided into five districts, with each electing its own city councilmember. The current councilmembers include; Mayor Will Arnold, Vice Mayor Josh Chapman, Donna Neville, Bapu Vaitla and Gloria Partida.

Courtesy / Jenny Tan

Mayor Will Arnold

On Jan. 3, 2023, Councilmember Will Arnold was sworn in as the mayor of Davis. Arnold formerly represented District 2 after first being elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. 

I am incredibly proud of what I have been able to accomplish on the city council and as mayor,” Arnold said. “During my tenure, the city council has taken the housing crisis head-on, approving several projects, particularly multifamily rental housing.”

Arnold affirmed that addressing the ongoing housing crisis has been an important issue, however, there are other important policies he highlighted that have been introduced throughout his time in office. He shared that the council has helped establish agencies such as Valley Clean Energy to address accessibility issues to clean electricity, as well as the Department of Social Services and Housing to introduce transitional housing opportunities for community members.

Arnold referenced the Downtown Davis Plan, which plans for the future of Downtown Davis up to 2040.

“Responding to the housing crisis remains front-and-center among our priorities,” Arnold said. “We recently approved a Downtown Plan that calls for 1,000 new housing units in our downtown. Almost immediately upon passing this plan, housing proposals have come forward that, once built, would account for nearly half of that total.” 

When discussing the challenges facing his mayoral administration, Arnold stated that the COVID-19 pandemic required an immediate and immense response.

“We formed the Healthy Davis Together partnership and brought free and easy-to-administer testing community wide by the fall of 2020,” Arnold said. “As a result, our testing rate was higher, and our transmission rate lower than anywhere in the region. We’re the city that conquered COVID as well as anyone, and lives were saved.” 

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arnold talked about the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement demanding improvements to public safety standards that required a similar response by the council.

“Unlike many other communities that made grand pronouncements of reforms they planned to implement, only to walk them back, the city of Davis took a deliberate approach, convened local experts and developed a plan to make significant reform,” Arnold said. 

Courtesy / Jenny Tan

Vice Mayor Josh Chapman


Josh Chapman was sworn in as vice mayor at the same time as Arnold was sworn in as mayor. He represents District 5. Chapman was first elected to be on the city council in 2020. 

Chapman has a deep appreciation for volunteer work. He worked for AmeriCorps and now, as a father of two, spends time volunteering at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School and working as a youth sports coach.

“I have always placed a high value on community service,” Chapman said. “After college, I joined AmeriCorps where I worked in Southeast Washington DC. I saw firsthand the impact voluntarism can have in a community and that has stayed with me. Working with youth in our community around mental health awareness and suicide prevention is dear to my heart. These issues have impacted so many families and providing education and support to those who have experienced this remains a priority for me.”  

He worked as education director for the Metropolitan Police Boys & Girls Club and as a teacher for a non-profit organization in San Francisco. Chapman believes that his passion for education shows in his politics. 

“Through my volunteer work at the Boys and Girls Club, as well as my Master’s Degree in education, I know the power of education and how access to a high-quality education provides opportunities,” Chapman said. “Our housing policies have a direct impact on affordability and in turn the ability for families to live here and have access to our education system in Davis.”

Chapman is the small business owner and manager of local record store Armadillo Music. He has previously served on the Davis Downtown Business Association Board of Directors and, most recently, on the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee

“We continue to support our new Department of Social Services and Housing which has a direct impact on some of the most vulnerable populations in Davis,” Chapman said. “I am very supportive of the implementation of the action items laid out in our recently approved Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. I am also very excited to continue working with and partnering with Yolo County on the approval and construction of a library in South Davis. Lastly, we have a number of housing proposals that will be coming to our council for deliberation and ultimately approval. This is a way for all councilmembers to have a direct impact on a variety of features in those developments.”


Courtesy / Jenny Tan

Councilmember Donna Neville


Newest elected councilmember, Donna Neville, was sworn into office in June but has already been busy trying to address the issues she campaigned on.

“My time in the office has been very busy and exciting,” Neville said. “There is a real urgency to address housing issues and I am very excited to be a part of that effort. When I ran for office, I committed to being as responsive as possible with my community members, so my days are filled with meetings, phone calls and emails where I try to respond to every inquiry.”

After spending nearly three decades as a lawyer in public service with the primary focus on public policy and making state and local government programs more accountable, Neville retired about six years ago. Since then, she has had a calling to give back to the community.

“I had already been serving on a number of nonprofit boards and city commissions and when this vacancy occurred, it seemed like the ideal time to run for public office,” Neville said. “For me, it’s all about public service and using my background to make Davis a great place for all.”

One of Neville’s top goals is to make an impact in addressing housing issues by making housing more available and affordable. She plans on utilizing her background in public finance and government accountability to improve the city.

“We are a compassionate, engaged community filled with people who donate their time and energy to making the city a great place to live,” Neville said. “This is what makes Davis so wonderful.” 

Courtesy / Jenny Tan

Councilmember Bapu Vaitla 


Bapu Vaitla was elected to represent District 1 on the Davis City Council in Nov. 2022 and his term ends in 2026. Before running for the Davis City Council, Vaitla served on the Social Services Commission.

It was there that he “saw that there was an opportunity for the city to lead on a couple of issues that I felt were of great importance,” Vaitla said via phone. 

“The first issue is affordable housing, and it’s the lack of affordable housing,” Vaitla shared about the main issues his platform included when running for city council. “It’s really [due to the housing crisis] that we see an increasing number of people living on the streets. The other big issue was climate action and just having worked across the world and seeing the devastating consequences of climate change, including the United States, understanding that Davis could be a potential leader in decarbonization.” 

Some of Vaitla’s goals for the future of Davis include building 1,000 units of affordable housing by the end of his term, developing a realistic transition plan for the city to be less car-focused and increasing battery storage capacity.


Courtesy / Jenny Tan

Councilmember Gloria Partida


Gloria Partida, a long-time activist in the Davis community, was sworn into office in 2018. She served as mayor from July 2020 to 2022 and currently serves as city councilmember for District 4. Her term ends in 2026. 

She was originally encouraged by fellow community members to run for office after her involvement with policy work in Davis. She realized that the best way to further spark change would be to get involved with the city council.

My goals continue to be finding ways to make housing more accessible for everyone, lower the number of unhoused individuals, implement our climate action plan and support our youth,” Partida said. “For the near future, the city is working on placing a tax measure on the ballot in 2024 — this will be a critical decision for our community, and ensuring that they understand the implications will require that we engage them appropriately.” 

Prior to working for the council, Partida attended UC Davis and received her Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. She worked as a neurobiologist at UC Davis for 30 years until retiring in 2019.

Partida has a long history of being involved in disability awareness as well as school and community development. She is also the founder of the Davis Phoenix Coalition (DPC) which promotes community inclusion. The DPC helps to organize Davis Pride events, vigils and raise awareness and support for social justice issues. 

“From Pride to Parties, Social Justice to Social Services, and Advocacy to Acceptance, we tackle everything we face in this world head-on,” the DPC website reads. “Of course, we like to celebrate, too, uniting our community in events that bring us closer and give us a break from our sometimes too-hectic world. Our lives aren’t just sunshine and roses, but we believe that together we can overcome any challenges that come our way.’

Written By: The City News Desk city@theaggie.org