Dirk Brazil has served as the city manager for the city of Davis since 2014. He spoke in the Zócalo green room about keeping cooking simple and keeping up with back issues of The New Yorker before taking part in a Zócalo/The California Wellness Foundation panel discussion in Sacramento entitled “Is the Central Valley Finally Embracing Its Urban Future?”
What’s your happiest childhood memory?
I grew up in Salinas and lived on a dead-end street that ended at the high school. We would prowl the high school grounds at all hours and ride our bikes everywhere, and just do all kinds of wonderful things that you do when you’re 5 to 10 years old, in a free and open sort of way. You went places and everybody knew who you were.
Where do you take out-of-town visitors?
There’s a lot of things to see in Davis: the Arboretum, the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art; I think we have a fantastic downtown with lots of fun things to do. A little further afield, we could go walking on the levy and show you all our water. And if time allows we bring them to the capitol building so they can look up at the dome, because not every state has a capitol the size of ours, and it’s really impressive.
Do you have a favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. It’s just everybody getting together, lots of family, without the clichés.
Was there a teacher or professor who especially influenced or even changed your life?
Tom Hoeber at UC Davis. At the time he was publisher of The California Journal, which covered California politics and government. He brought in interesting speakers, and it really sort of opened my mind to life in the capital. He talked very openly and expansively about government, and this was right when Prop. 13 was happening, so it was a dynamic time in California.
What are you reading for pleasure?
I seem to always be buried under past issues of The New York Times and The New Yorker. And then I’ll usually have a book of fiction that I’ve probably gleaned from The New York Times Book Review. I seek out page-turners, not really ponderous sorts of things.
What keeps you up at night?
What doesn’t? My work, my two children, the state of world affairs.
How old are your children?
Twenty-seven and 22. I still worry about ‘em.
Who’s your favorite Rolling Stone?
Keith Richards, by far. He’s just iconic, and he’s a fantastic guitar player.
What profession would you practice in your next life?
Chef. Cooking is what I do to relax. I do most of the cooking in our house. It wouldn’t be anything terribly fancy or highbrow, with foams and such, but it would be very good.