Through tears, Gavilan board discusses filling vacant seat


The first regular Board of Education meeting at Gavilan College since the death of Mike Davenport was weighted with emotion Tuesday night, when several trustees took a moment to remember their lost colleague before discussing how to fill his shoes.

At the request of Board President Laura Perry, roughly 30 staff and audience members bowed their heads in a moment of silence for Davenport, who served on Gavilan’s Board of Education since 2008. The Morgan Hill resident and father of two passed away March 2 at San Jose Regional Medical Center following a tragic Feb. 20 accident when he fell off his RV at a gas station that left Davenport in a medically induced coma for two weeks.

Perry held back tears as she explained to attendees at the start of open session that “it’s our first meeting here without Mike. I’m just broken hearted… I’m sure all of us are.”

Later that evening during Tuesday’s meeting, trustees made the unanimous decision to advertise the vacant seat on their seven-member board, rather than wait until the November 2012 elections. Public interviews, immediately followed by the appointment of a new trustee, will be held April 18 at Gavilan’s main campus at 5055 Santa Teresa Blvd. in Gilroy. Davenport’s term would have expired in November.

Perry admitted Monday she wasn’t emotionally ready to address the task of finding a replacement for Davenport. She would have preferred to wait until after his March 17 memorial service at South Valley Community Church – “but we needed to discuss it,” said Perry. “I don’t want to delay it more than a couple of weeks…we need to give (applicants) time.”

Trustee Tom Breen agreed that weathering the next five meetings with six trustees could get dicey when it comes to voting on agenda items.

“Theoretically, we could have a three-to-three vote,” he pointed out. “It’s just good to get the position filled.”

Perry said the plan is to issue a March 20 notice via the Dispatch listing instructions and requirements for potential candidates. The window to submit application materials is between March 21 and April 13, with interviews taking place during the April 18 meeting. The new board member will officially be sworn in on May 8, Perry said.

As Davenport’s seat on the board would have been up for grabs in November 2012, Perry hopes that whoever throws their hat in the ring will stick around for the long haul.

“I’m not really looking for someone just to fill-in for six months,” said Perry, who made it very clear the level of commitment that she’s looking for. “I’m trying to put it out there that I am personally encouraging applicants that want to run in the general election.”

Board members are paid a monthly stipend of around $229 after taxes, plus the option for benefits, according to Trustee Walt Glines.

The April 18 interviews at Gavilan will mark the second appointment of a new school board trustee during the 2011-12 school year. In early December, the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education selected veteran educator and former GUSD trustee Pat Midtgaard to fill the vacancy of Francisco Dominguez following his Nov. 10 resignation.

Davenport is the second active Gavilan trustee to pass away since the death of trustee George Champion more than 10 years ago.

When asked if Davenport’s photo would remain in its current place alongside photos of the other current trustees inside the Gavilan board room, Perry said Gavilan is considering installing two benches on campus – one in memory of Davenport and one in memory of Champion.

Davenport, 46, suffered a severe head injury the afternoon of Feb. 20 after he fell off the roof of his motor home while gassing up at the Chevron Station on Cochrane Road. He remained in a medically induced coma until his family decided to take him off life support March 2. X-ray and CT scan images taken while Davenport remained on life support showed damage to his brain stem.

Davenport’s doctors will keep his body “viable for organ donations for as long as is necessary,” according to his friend and business partner Jeff Burrus. It is expected that up to 10 of Davenport’s organs can be saved and donated to individuals in need, and up to 70 people will benefit from his organs and tissue transplants.

Davenport was president and CEO of the Morgan Hill Cigar Co., of which he was also a partner along with Burrus. His full-time day job was as a manager at Cisco Systems.

A public memorial service open to all those whose lives were touched by Davenport will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 17 at South Valley Community Church at 8095 Kelton Drive.

As Davenport was a Navy Veteran Lieutenant, members of the U.S. Navy and the Patriot Guard Riders – who frequently demonstrate their support for soldiers at parades, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, at homecomings and funerals – will also be present during Saturday’s memorial.  

During board member reports Tuesday evening, Trustee Kent Child described Davenport as “one of the most committed and involved trustees” who never said anything negative.

“He will leave a wonderful legacy of commitment and genuine embracing of life,” Child continued. “ He was a big man, with a much bigger spirit.”

• The service is open to the public and will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at South Valley Community Church, located at 8095 Kelton Drive in Gilroy.
• The Michael Ross Davenport Memorial Fund has been established at the Bank of the West at 206 Tennant Station in Morgan Hill, with proceeds to be donated to charities supported by Davenport. This includes the Rotary International Foundation, the Special Olympics and the Gavilan College Educational Foundation.