The Land That Politics Forgot 

Welcome to Yowza Dave Smith's Newark, where no one votes, no one runs for office, and no one dissents. Has democracy failed? Or has it been perfected?

Page 2 of 6

Fifty years in Newark,
and we're going strong.
Planning so things do work,
a place we all belong.
Fifty years in Newark,
giving it a whirl.
Fremont is the oyster;
Newark is the pearl.

Fifty years in Newark,
think I'm gonna stay.
Where else can we find one town
to work, shop, and play?
A longest-running mayor,
his legacy grows stronger,
his head is growing grayer.... (ha!)

Fifty years in Newark,
the chamber's in the black.
Business booms and ideas zoom
Newark has the knack.
Fifty years in Newark,
our schools pursue the dream
that all our future leaders
are a product of our team.

Fifty years in Newark!

Members of the chamber ate it up.

The Yowza band, Smith explained, is all about having fun while developing and maintaining unity among city leaders. Smith makes sure of it. The terms of employment for both City Manager Al Huezo and City Attorney Gary Galliano require that they play in the band. Not that either one minds. Nor is Huezo bothered by the requirement that he dance with Smith's wife at city-sponsored social events. Huezo shrugged and matter-of-factly explained why: "The mayor has two left feet."

He may not like to dance, but the mayor loves practical jokes. Nagy, who is often on the receiving end of Smith's pranks, has told the story several times of when cell phones were still a relatively new phenomenon and Smith brought one to a city council meeting. When the sound of a phone rang out, Smith immediately handed the cell phone to Nagy, saying the call was for him. The surprised Nagy soon realized the joke when the fake phone squirted him in the face with water.

Nagy, a rather round and jocular man, also recalled the time he and Smith spent a week together touring France after they visited their town's English namesake, Newark-on-Trent. Nagy and Smith were sharing a room, and when Nagy got ready for bed the first night, he slipped on his T-shirt -- only to find that Smith had attached a tennis ball to the back of it. "He did it so I wouldn't roll over and snore," Nagy explained, laughing.

Yet it wasn't just a practical joke, but another example of Smith taking pains to ensure their week went amicably. Nagy came to that realization after he noticed that Smith had a cup with a straw in it next to his bed at night. When Nagy asked him about it, Smith explained that because he didn't want Nagy to be bothered by his own snoring, he had been taping his mouth shut at night and needed the straw to be able to drink water. Laughing as he recounted the story, Nagy added: "He sure has strange habits, I tell you."

One of Smith's most noticeable habits is his affinity for saying "Yowza!" When a new business opens in Newark or when it's time to honor a faithful city employee, Smith can be counted on to exclaim: "Yowza!" He uses it so often, he sometimes is called Yowza Dave Smith. "It means good; it's always a positive," he explained. "And the way I use it, it's Y ... O ... W ... Z ... A in all caps with an exclamation point at the end."

It's hard to believe, but being mayor is only a part-time job for Smith. He spends much of his time traveling the country as a salesman and vice president for Oatey, an Ohio-based plumbing supplies company. Smith has been with Oatey for 26 years. It has a warehouse in Newark, coincidentally on Smith Avenue.

In many cities, council meetings can be raucous, messy, and uncomfortable affairs. That's local politics at work -- residents getting angry about a proposed giant housing development, or demanding that their city take the lead on regulating medical marijuana. In Oakland and Berkeley, for instance, council meetings often drag on for hours, as issue after issue is debated well past midnight.

But that's not the Newark Way. One recent council meeting lasted only 28 minutes -- and much of that was taken up by Smith honoring a longtime public-works employee. Smith congratulated Rick Olesky for his eight and a half years of service, but then quickly noted that in Newark, eight and a half years was a "short period of time." A side trip into the hallway to look at the plaques on the wall shows why. Fifty-five people have worked for the city for more than 25 years, including 23 whose tenure topped 35 years.

Tags: ,

Latest in Feature

News Blogs

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

The Beer Issue 2020

The Decade in Review

The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

Best of the East Bay


© 2021 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation