Mur­phy shares vi­sion for city

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By ALLISON GATLIN Val­ley Press Staff Writer

PALM­DALE — Palm­dale City Man­ager J.J. Mur­phy sees a bright fu­ture on the way for Palm­dale and the An­te­lope Val­ley, but one that’s not with­out its chal­lenges.

“We need to tell our story, not let the neg­a­tive peo­ple drive the mes­sage,” he said.

Mur­phy, who took over as city man­ager in Jan­uary, fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of James Pur­tee, ad­dressed the An­te­lope Val­ley His­panic Cham­ber of Com­merce Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Mur­phy in­tro­duced his wife Colleen, a third grade teacher at Ran­cho Vista El­e­men­tary School, and three of his five daugh­ters to the com­mu­nity, as well. The cou­ple’s two el­dest daugh­ters are away at col­lege, while the younger three at­tend Quartz

Hill High and Ran­cho Vista El­e­men­tary schools.

“I want you to know my fam­ily loves it here in Palm­dale and we are com­mit­ted to mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact for a very long time,” he said.

There is a good story to tell about Palm­dale and the re­gion, with its high rank­ing as a safe city and the news that Palm­dale and Lan­caster are pop­u­lar cities with the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, a bur­geon­ing aero­space in­dus­try, great schools and po­si­tion­ing to be­come a re­gional trans­porta­tion hub, Mur­phy said.

The re­gion’s two cites have a rocky his­tory, but have be­gun col­lab­o­rat­ing on mul­ti­ple fronts to ben­e­fit the Val­ley, as a whole.

“My chal­lenge to you is to join the fight in chang­ing the nar­ra­tive,” he said to ap­plause from the packed din­ing room.

While there will still be times the cities will com­pete against each other for projects or grant fund­ing, “we all need to re­al­ize, if one of us wins, we all win. Palm­dale is stronger with a city of Lan­caster that is suc­cess­ful and vice versa,” Mur­phy said. “We will col­lab­o­rate in­side and out­side the city to up­lift the re­gion.”

A Philadel­phia na­tive, son of a Navy vet­eran and re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer and a le­gal sec­re­tary, Mur­phy cred­its his par­ents for in­still­ing a de­sire to serve oth­ers.

He was the first in his fam­ily to grad­u­ate from col­lege, with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and master’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion.

While in grad­u­ate school, he en­rolled in Air Force ROTC and went on to serve 20 years on ac­tive duty and re­serves, pri­mar­ily in the area of search and res­cue.

Mur­phy said his mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence serv­ing as an of­fi­cer helped mold him as a leader. It taught him the lessons that con­tinue to guide him: Be the calm in the storm, lead by ex­am­ple, bet on your peo­ple and pos­i­tive en­ergy is a force mul­ti­plier.

He be­gan his mu­nic­i­pal ca­reer in 2002 as as­sis­tant city ad­min­is­tra­tor in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., fol­lowed by a pro­mo­tion to city ad­min­is­tra­tor there and as city man­ager in Hobbs, New Mex­ico.

“Be­ing a city man­ager can be lonely … dan­ger­ous, chal­leng­ing, but for me, there is no bet­ter job in the world,” Mur­phy said. “I am driven, pas­sion­ate and com­pas­sion­ate — which can some­times put me in con­flict with my­self. I am com­mit­ted to ex­cel­lence. If I get be­hind some­thing, I want the best. Our com­mu­nity de­serves noth­ing less. I hold my­self and oth­ers ac­count­able, which you don’t al­ways see in gov­ern­ment.”

The city is adding po­si­tions in ar­eas “where we want to see im­prove­ment in gov­ern­ment” and other open­ings have come up ei­ther by the em­ploy­ees’ choice or Mur­phy’s in cases, “where my style and ex­pec­ta­tions were 180 de­grees dif­fer­ent,” he said. “I ad­mit I do not have the pa­tience to wait for change. As Palm­dale sits ready to ex­plode, we are build­ing a team of win­ners. We are chang­ing the cul­ture to a team whose mis­sion it is to help the pub­lic and to find a cre­ative way to get to yes.”

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