Murphy shares vision for city
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.”