Interview of Kevin Murphy

March 27, 2014

Kevin Murphy interview

Opening Statement: Loves the city. It’s his home. He’s lived here his entire life. I’m the parent of a child who received a world-class education in the Lowell public schools. We have a shared destiny. A city where people can find jobs or start businesses or live in decent homes; world class education; safe streets and parks. We want a place like Lowell is today but better. I bring a special preparation to this job. Of particular importance is my work on House Ways and Means Committee. Talks about four years as chair of Higher Education Committee. Has 13 years municipal experience as assistant city solicitor. Importance of negotiating contracts. Has always hired top notch professionals. Communications are very important. I’ve demonstrated my ability to work with all levels of government. Importance of immigrants in the city of Lowell.

Councilor Belanger: Question – If selected would you continue practicing law? No, I have an associate who would take over the business in its entirety. Question – Have you done the best for your district in terms of bringing funding to Lowell? We’ve done a good job. There was some communications problems in the past few years that might have kept us from knowing some of the city’s needs. There are many sources of funding. Question – How will 17 years on Beacon Hill benefit Lowell if you’re city manager? The perfect example is the Ayer Industrial Park Plan. That will bring a great industrial base to the city. We can jumpstart that plan through the right combination of state and federal assistance. Question – How do you feel about dedicating an employee solely to economic development? I agree. The first step is to talk to existing business owners and find out what they need from the city. He’ll bring community policing strategies to DPD.

Mayor Elliott: Question – How will your experience as assistant city solicitor benefit you as city manager. As a lawyer, you have to learn everything about the client you represent. For 13 years I represented each department in city hall and learned their functions which will greatly benefit me. Question – can you elaborate on the importance of negotiating contracts? I’ve been on both sides of the bargaining table. I know what are deal killers. I know how to get deals that are beneficial to the workforce but also benefit the taxpayers. Question – What would be your process on getting board volunteers? We need better outreach. There are many people who would be willing to serve. We have to reach out and get them to apply. Question – All upcoming projects require packages of funding; are we harmed by hiring you and losing your seniority in the legislature? Rest assured the money didn’t come here solely because of me. It was a team effort. The funds will continue to come to the city of Lowell. Question – role on House Ways and Means. We begin the budget process for the state with revenue estimate hearings in January. Then there’s a series of hearings with each and every department where they have to defend their budget. Then we come up with the budget. Question – Would you see a similar process here? I’m a firm believer in performance based budgeting. Each department head would have to justify their requests.

Councilor Kennedy: Question – Would you take the job without a contract? I would not require a contract. Question – what do you think about the judicial center? I’ve been pushing that for 15 years in the legislature. It’s of utmost importance to the Hamilton Canal area. In Lawrence, the judicial center spurred economic development and has brought a sense of safety to the area. Same in New Bedford. I predict in 2017 the Lowell Judicial Center will open. Question – what would you do to push forward the Tanner St project? Provide adequate access to the area. I would collaborate with the state delegation to meet with state dept of transportation to expedite access improvements. Question – what qualities would you look for in CFO and DPD? I want the best qualified person to be CFO, someone like a Tom Moses or even better. I would do a search. I’m not opposed to a search committee involving the city council. Same thing for DPD. Question – What about dedicating people to marketing? We should emulate Chancellor Meehan in terms of branding and marketing. Question – To keep taxes level and preserve services we have to focus on growth, have you thought about that? Our best resource is our talented resource. I’ve been watching Kendall Square in Cambridge. They’ve located their because of Harvard and MIT. We have that right here in Lowell with UMass Lowell and MCC. I want to partner with UML. They have their emerging technologies center. I want the city of Lowell to be onsite so that when these companies are ready to do business, we’re there with space for them. I can see downtown opening up to innovation companies. That’s the best way to spur development.

Councilor Leahy: Question – Importance of bond rating? I understand the need to keep reserves in order to keep a good bond rating. Question – Problems getting downtown buildings up to code; any ideas on overcoming those obstacles? Most of the buildings are privately owned so it’s tough to get state funding for them. I think the school department’s administrative offices should be in downtown. Question – How do we hire new police and fully fund the schools? Education is key. We have to resolve the net school spending issue. The city is to receive higher amounts of education and general aid in the coming fiscal year so there’s good news. The budget is tight but the revenue is getting better. It’s critically important to get those five officers on the street. Have to look at long term solution. Question – What would your first day on the job look like. I’d visit every department and refamiliarize myself with them. I would sit down with the department heads. There’s a lot of work to do on this budget. You’ll never be blindsided by this administration.

Councilor Martin: Question – Elaborate on strategic vision? I have one but you’re my bosses so I have to learn your vision for the city. Question – We get money because of the efforts of the state delegation but also because Lowell makes good use of it; are you ready to continue that? Certainly, people in state government love giving money to Lowell because it gets used promptly and well. Question – Experience on chair of higher ed? There was a staff of 10 people that we used to manage $1 billion. I believe department heads should be responsible for the day to day supervision of the employees. I compare meeting with higher education presidents to meeting with department heads. Question – Other management experience like in your law office? I have a small office but it’s the same concept; expenditures can never exceed revenues.

Councilor Mercier: Question – Would you continue representing other communities as a lawyer? No, I will not practice law if I become city manager. Question – what else needs to be done in Lowell? Public safety, even though statistics might say otherwise but it needs attention because it’s a real problem. We need to do more because perception is reality. We have to do more for downtown and for neighborhood businesses. We have to provide services for them so they can thrive. Question – what role would neighborhood groups play? All in my district will tell you I’ve always been intimately involved with their concerns. The great things about going to those meetings are learning the pedestrian issues. We can talk about the big issues but small ones are important for quality of life. Question – what are you proudest of as state legislator? The great working relationship I have with the other members of the state delegation from Lowell. We didn’t agree on every issue but we all understood that when something is in the best interest of the city we all needed to come together. Question – what is your greatest quality? My incredible passion for Lowell. I want to be the City Manager of Lowell and nowhere else.

Councilor Milinazzo: Question – Your view of parking as a revenue source or a management tool? As a management tool so residents can come and park and do their business. That said, the FY15 budget is based on a significant increase in parking revenue. That’s something that has to be examined. Question – How do you anticipate restoring the chapter 17 funds we used for net school spending and also charter school funding? The charter school reimbursement should be blamed on the state legislature. We all believe in value of education. We have to invest in our school system. We will resolve the net school spending. Question – will you continue to recommend we build our pension reserves? Absolutely. You don’t spend reserves on operational needs. We will look at other funding sources for operating expenses. We should be aggressively pursuing grants. Question – regarding GIC for health insurance, how would you assess it, especially for retirees? I’d want to make sure people are happy with GIC.

Councilor Rourke: Question – what’s your opinion of our k-12 system and how would you work to improve it? My son received a world class education in the Lowell public schools. But I’ve read some disturbing studies that say our curriculum is failing some of our students. I would work with school superintendent to get the curriculum to prepare students for the jobs of today. Question – what’s the biggest issue facing the city? Public safety. Companies won’t come here if they don’t feel safe. Same with employees. Question – how would you handle a disagreement with councilors? You’re my boss. I’m not going to argue with you. My role is to research, come up with a plan, make recommendations, but in the end it’s the collective judgment of the council that prevails. Question – What’s your plan to welcome immigrants? I work with them right now, with CMAA and other groups. I recognize the benefits that immigrants bring. I commend Bernie Lynch’s efforts to make the city’s workforce and boards reflective of the entire city. Question – what sets you apart from other candidates? I’m a good leader. A good leader is willing to listen and discuss and reach common ground. I vow that you will never be blindsided. You’ll know the plans well in advance.

Councilor Samaras: Question – How would you get the vision of the city councilors? By whatever means work best for you. My door is always open for city councilors. It’s important to meet one on one. Question – What are some of the changes we would see down the road if you’re city manager? A safer city, a downtown that’s vibrant, neighborhood businesses vibrant, spectacular parks and an economy that’s better than it is now. When I’m no longer city manager, I’ll still be living on Newbury Street. Question – Regarding the Lowell Plan, sometimes a good relationship with City Hall, sometimes not, how would you work with that group? Lowell Plan will be a critical partner. The city doesn’t engage in economic development, businesses do. There are great businesspeople on the Lowell Plan. The Lowell Plan does great work. Question – what was your proudest accomplishment? The reinvention of Julian Steele, It wasn’t popular in the state house. We used our skills to convince a majority to support it.

Closing Statement: I bring passion to this job. I love this city. I’m deeply committed to it. I have a vision for the city. I know what matters to the other citizens because they’re my neighbors. I have the leadership skills and the ability to collaborate with everyone to make Lowell a better place.