When it comes to advocating on vital issues affecting the community, from water to transportation and CEMEX, the city of Santa Clarita has turned to Mike Murphy since the beginning.
At nearly 25 years serving the local government as its intergovernmental relations manager, he has acted as a liaison on the city’s behalf, but the time has come to close a decades-long chapter.
“My last day working for the city will be Friday, Aug. 2. I’m retiring,” said Murphy.
Soon to take over his position is current city administrative analyst Masis Hagobian, who said he will have some big shoes to fill.
It’s not hard to see why as Murphy’s lengthy and impressive resume includes efforts dating back to the start of his career in the late 1970s working for former California Assemblyman Robert Cline, who represented the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I have worked in the various capacities that I’ve been in kind of off and on in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1978, so I’ve seen a lot of changes here,” he said.
While much has changed over the years, he recalled one particular proposal in the early 80s that would have changed the way we know the SCV: a state prison.
“There was a proposal to put a state prison out here on what is now the site of Central Park, and I was working then with another state legislator, Assemblymember Cathie Wright,” he said. “The law at that time required that the next state prison that was going to be built in California had to be built in Los Angeles County. Really, when you think about it, how different would it be in this community?”
Eventually, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which is now the SCV Water Agency, was able to acquire the property and the prison issue went away, efforts Murphy was behind.
He also worked closely on changing the date of city elections from April to November, and legislation that put four water retailers on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board in 1986, which was the model for 30 years before State Sen. Scott Wilk’s bill to create the SCV Water Agency.
But perhaps his No. 1 task since joining the city has been working to halt the CEMEX mega-mine on Santa Clarita’s eastern border, an issue that has garnered numerous efforts by two different congressional representatives and most recently weakened its prospects of mining after a federal review board decision.
“I would call it a victory,” said Murphy about CEMEX, although the matter remains ongoing.
But local elected officials have said the significant milestone in a multiyear fight is thanks, in large part, to Murphy.
“The work he’s done on the landfill for the last 19 years with CEMEX is incredible,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste. “He’s a great think-tank person and his knowledge of our state laws and the political steps for resolving issues or creating things beneficial to the public is boundless.”
“We’ve been very lucky to have him,” said Mayor Marsha McLean. “His wealth of knowledge and dedication are amazing. I might be calling him with questions even after he’s gone but I hope that he enjoys his retirement.”
And that’s exactly what he plans to do alongside his wife who recently retired: travel, enjoy the outdoors and explore his interest in photography.
“Over time, a kind of a combination of personal and professional considerations just all came together this past spring which said, ‘Now is the time to move to the next chapter in my life,’” said Murphy. “There is that nostalgia thinking about all the people that I’ve worked with. I see this city continuing to be seen as a strong foundation, municipal government in the state of California.”