Margaret Murphy has had her moments as Clerk of Council for Wauseon. She has inadvertently called City Council members by the wrong name, and once called Councilor Stiriz by the title Councilor Shirts.
Those few faux pas aside, Murphy, who retires Sept. 29 after 24 years in the position, served with quiet professionalism and a generous spirit, city officials say.
“Meg has always made sure that our council meetings are professionally run. I’m going to miss her a lot. She has never had a lot to say, but her work and ethics speak volumes,” Mayor Kathy Huner said.
Murphy, 65, announced her impending retirement earlier this year. She will be replaced by Andrea Gerken, the city’s water utility clerk.
After growing up in the Troy-Birmingham area of Michigan, then living in northern California during the 1970s and ’80s, Murphy arrived in Wauseon in 1992 to be closer to her father, Peter Murphy. The owner of Murphy’s Place, he died in 1996.
Her first impressions of Wauseon were of delight. “It was easy to get around. It was kind of a different lifestyle,” she said. “I liked that just a mile away and you’re out in the farm country. I liked the slow pace. There’s not bumper-to-bumper traffic and long lines.”
She did work in Toledo through a temporary agency before being hired as Wauseon’s Clerk of Council in 1993. Her education and background in administrative duties helped her acclimate quickly as the city’s liaison between residents and elected officials.
“Most clerks don’t know the position – what a clerk is,” she said. “I found it very interesting. I thought the city officials were all very interesting people. (The job) was kind of the hub of everything.”
It was a good fit for Murphy, who enjoys being surrounded by the bustle of activity. “I like to watch the happening, but I don’t want to be part of it,” she said, laughing. “I was glad in my position I didn’t have to make the news. I just record the news.”
She served four city administrations – those of Jerry Matheny, Jerry Dehnbostel, Doug Shaw, and Kathy Huner – and found each to have a different but effective style.
“They were all good to get along with,” Murphy said. “They were all devoted. They all loved their city and wanted the best for their city.”
Major projects during her tenure included the city’s water agreement with the City of Napoleon, the creation of Dorothy B. Biddle Park, the development of Glenwood Avenue, and the rebirth of a community pool.
Major controversies flared a few times, including a disputed sidewalk project in the 1990s and zoning and pitbull dog issues in more recent years.
Murphy said City Council meetings had a more casual atmosphere when she started her position. But Jeff Robinson, the current Common Pleas Court judge who was then the city’s law director, made the meetings more formal by adopting Robert’s Rules of Order, standard formalities often used at official meetings.
Her job evolved as well. There was more paperwork in years past, and the twice-monthly City Council agenda packet had to be copied 17 times before the the introduction of email.
“Back then, everything took longer to do,” Murphy said. “It was a little more frustrating to get things done. With the advent of email things are much more efficient.”
The one exception is the still-tedious task of typing up council minutes following meetings. “I’m not ready to do minutes anymore. I think I’m all written out,” she said.
When she leaves her office for the last time, Murphy will miss most the people she worked with. She’ll also miss the camaraderie she shared with other clerks through memberships with the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association and the International Municipal Clerks Association.
Huner, who has worked with Murphy since 2000, said she relied heavily on Murphy during her first days on City Council.
“She knew the policies and procedures so well, and that’s a lot to learn when you’re on council,” Huner said. “She made sure things ran tight. That is what I’m going to miss.”
Councilor Shane Chamberlin said when he was first elected “Meg greeted me with open arms and walked me through the process of a newly-elected official, and was a resource of information. Whenever a council member had a question or concern she’d drop everything to make sure it was taken care of. She was great.”
Murphy is looking forward to new interests in retirement. She’ll start by tackling house projects “because now I don’t have an excuse,” and wants to travel and camp.
“You just kind of get reinvented. It’s kind of fun to figure out something else,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.