Inaugurated in November, the former District 5 councilman is wasting no time tackling the issues he believes are important to citizens.
“The biggest thing right now is making moves to get jobs,” Murphree said. “I’ve met with some people who are hopefully going to put us in touch with some interested companies. We’re steadily doing what we can to attract jobs, and after the first of the year, we want to get started a lot heavier in that.”
Other issues of top priority for the new mayor, who has lived in Sylacauga for more than 50 years, include cleanup at the former REEF waste treatment facility, improving the appearance of the city’s streets and assessing city finances. Murphree said he and Accounting Manager Karen Beane are taking a close look at the city’s accounts to determine if changes need to be made to the budget, which was passed by the previous council with a $411,000 deficit.
“We’re a couple months into the new budget, so hopefully by the next council meeting we can give a state of the city report to let everybody know where we are,” he said.
The all-new City Council is also planning to resolve ongoing issues, like an ownership change to the city-owned Legion Stadium, updating the city’s comprehensive and strategic plans and revising the annexation policy, among other items.
Murphree said the council — composed of President Pro-Tempore Joe Hogan in District 1, Shannon Darby in District 2, Tom Roberts in District 3, President Rocky Lucas in District 4 and Billy Carden in District 5 — presents a rare opportunity for the city.
“I’m sure (an all-new council) has happened at some point, but I can’t remember it happening,” Murphree said. “Everybody is bringing fresh ideas, and they’re all putting their heads together and coming up with new things and new directions they think Sylacauga needs to go in, and I think that’s good. They seem to work well together and they seem very interested in moving Sylacauga forward.”
As for Murphree, the role of mayor has been a trouble-free transition thanks to his long-time involvement with the city, he said.
“It’s the same work I’ve been used to for 16 years, just a lot more of it,” Murphree said. “I had almost retired, so I’m trying to adjust to working more hours, but we’ve got some real good employees, and I’m enjoying working with everybody. I’ve got a lot of things I want to accomplish.”
Many improvements have been made in Sylacauga since Murphree first joined the council, he said, including revitalizing downtown, construction of B.B. Comer Library and Nichols-Lawson Middle School, establishment of SAFE Family Services Center, expansion of services at Coosa Valley Medical Center and beginning the annual Marble Festival, to name a few.
“I think Sylacauga has a lot to offer,” he said. “We’ve got a quality education system that a lot of cities our size don’t have. We’ve got things like our library that we’re so proud of. We’ve got SAFE that is a standout organization. People from all over the country try to pattern their programs after what SAFE is doing. And just recently my wife was talking about all the specialty shops and restaurants downtown. There’s always something going on downtown, and it wasn’t like that 15 years ago, so that’s great.”
Murphree, who has two adult sons with his wife of 47 years, Barbara, said he plans to capitalize on his opportunity to help Sylacauga progress.
“When I first ran for council, I just wanted to get involved and see if I could help the community,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve thought about a lot of things I wanted to try to accomplish, so this is going to give me an opportunity to see if I can do some of those things. Hopefully it’s going to be a good four years.”
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