Tale of Two Murrays: Lt. Gov. Tim Murray?In Tune With Playing Second Fiddle

(With Gov. Duval Patrick’s recent announcement that his wife, Diane, was suffering from exhaustion and depression, and that he was temporarily cutting back on his schedule to spend time with her, newly elected Lt. Gov. Tim Murray stepped more directly into the Beacon Hill spotlight, picking up on some of the governor’s duties. As former mayor of Worcester, the Commonwealth’s Second City, Murray labored in relative media obscurity beyond the Route 128 loop. The Boston Irish Reporter profile below, published last month, offers a detailed overview of Murray, his politics and family background.

In a tale of two Murray’s, Codfish Press blog provides an intimate look at Sen. Therese Murray of Plymouth, whose district includes Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich and parts of Barnstable. Murray is the odds on favorite to replace Robert Travaglini as Massachusetts Senate President. Travaglini is expected to leave his post for a job with the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals.

(The two Murrays represent yet another changing of the guard in Beacon Hill politics.)

By Greg O’Brien, Boston Irish Reporter

 It was weeks after Christmas, and Timothy P. Murray was still opening packages. The best presents under the tree last year were his stocking stuffer Democratic primary victory with 43 percent of the vote, his election in November as the 73rd lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and his anticipated role as a key advisor, city-state liaison, and strategist on commuter rail issues in the Duval Patrick Administration. As Murray sits in his corner office in the Governor’s Suite on this late afternoon in early January, he is consumed with his new responsibilities and sorting through some of the filtrate and transition of serving three terms as mayor of Worcester, a post he left two days ago.

With boxes still unpacked, files that need to be sorted, and his mind alert in expectation, Murray is a study of second place finishes. And that’s a good thing, if you ask this 38-years-old, third generation Irish American, who looks more like an acolyte than one of the state’s most influential leaders in a region where politics is the coin of this parochial realm. There is no little man complex about him—having presided in the last five years over more than $1 billion of new economic development in Worcester and shoring up amidst draconian budget cuts the city’s declining schools, which are now ranked among the top urban school systems in the nation. No, there is nothing bashful about being mayor of the “second city,” the second largest municipality in the Commonwealth, Boston’s stepsister. “That’s just the facts,” he says. And now that he’s lieutenant governor, playing second fiddle to Gov. Patrick, Murray is as comfortable with it as Derek Jeter is batting second. It’s déjà vu all over again, as Yogi might say, although the cerebral Murray would prefer to quote Harry S. Truman: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”

There is not much Murray, a Worcester native, doesn’t know about meeting tight budgets, making tough decisions and inspiring a vision. “My mission,” he says, “was to transform a blue collar city to a white collar economy with a blue collar work ethic.” Mission accomplished, in part, his supporters would assert. As mayor, a member of the Worcester City Council and chairman of the Worcester School Committee, a job he performed in his mayoral duties, Murray, among other accomplishments: built community-school partnerships to lower dropout rates; helped create school-based health initiatives; expanded after-school programs to support working families; was the inspiration for the ground-breaking City Square Project—a public-private venture for a $575 million mixed-use redevelopment of the failing Worcester Common Outlets Mall (former Worcester Galleria) in the downtown area; established a close working partnership with the city, local businesses, and Worcester’s colleges and universities to generate job opportunities; and worked diligently to revitalize other sections of this historic industrial city, which in some ways is more representative of Massachusetts than Boston itself.

“If you don’t know a lot about Worcester, then you probably don’t know a lot about Fall River, New Bedford, Lawrence, Lowell and God forbid, Springfield, Pittsfield and Holyoke,” Murray says, noting that he plans to be a strong spokesman on Beacon Hill for these cities. “If we are going to turn this state around, and finally head in the right direction to stem population and job loss, then we have to recognize that there is a whole world beyond the Route 128 loop, and that state government needs to listen to it, respond to it and invest in it!”

To buttress this point, there’s a framed cartoon in Murray’s office that the librarian of the Worcester Public Library gave him after his election. It reads, “In an unconfirmed report, human life is believed to exist beyond Route 128. Details at 11! News 13 Boston.”

Murray is such a lunch pail homey, in fact, that Gov. Patrick recently teased him about all the Worcester paintings and memorabilia on the pale yellow walls. “You’re not the mayor of Worcester anymore; you have to get some more paintings of Boston.”

The independent-minded Murray still isn’t biting. A Boston-related painting on the wall that is scheduled to go is a large oil portrait of Boston Brahmin Leverett A. Saltonstall, governor of Massachusetts from 1939-45 and U.S. Senator from 1945-67. “I’m moving him out,” declares Murray. “I’m replacing him with Levi Lincoln.”

For those who live east of the Route 128 loop, and don’t know better, Levi Lincoln, Jr. was mayor of Worceser, served nine years as Massachusetts’s governor, seven years in Congress, and was a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln. He died in 1868. His father, Levi Lincoln, Sr., also served on Congress and briefly as governor, and his brother Enoch was governor of Maine, serving simultaneously with his sibling. The only other such examples in history are Nelson and Winthrop Rockefeller, who served as governors of New York and Arkansas respectively in the 1960s and George and Jeb Bush from 1999 to 2000, serving in Texas and Florida.

So much for the second city shtick. All politics is local.

And so Murray plans to commute most days from Worcester where he lives in a working class neighborhood with his wife, Tammy, an occupational therapist, and their cherubic two-year-old adopted Guatemalan daughter, Helen. He hopes to bring home the bacon to the western part of the state more than predecessors former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, a striking contrast to Murray with her more affluent style.

“There was much frustration in municipal corners of the state in dealing with the Romney Administration,” he says, seated at an uncluttered conference table that in weeks will be spilling over with reports and various documents. “There was an unwillingness to communicate with the mayors, a sense that we worked for the governor.” When budget cuts caused layoffs and closed schools, he says, “Romney wouldn’t meet with us. Healey made an effort, but she didn’t have the ability to deliver. It was meaningless. They cut our aide, and gave us no opportunity to mitigate the cuts. I was an advocate of local option taxes to kept schools open and people at work. But we had no alternatives.”

One alternative, Murray concluded, was to run for lieutenant governor, with the support of other mayors. “I think this new administration can do far better.”

The Patrick Administration, however, will have its hands full juggling a numbing state budget deficit. Murray, a practicing attorney until his election, is clearly impressed with Gov. Patrick’s intellect, drive and ability to communicate and lead in the budget process. He says he meets or speaks with him several times a day on policy and budget-related issues, and is thankful that Patrick has offered him “meaningful participation and a voice.”

To some extent, the Patrick Administration will have a safer passage in the roiling political waters of the Democratic controlled state Legislature. “But there will be some dust-ups,” Murray predicts. “But as long as there is mutual respect and commitment to doing what is best for the Commonwealth, we’ll get some things done.

“I think showing up for work in the real sense is a good start, and recognizing the many strengths this state possesses: working capital, medical delivery systems, state-of-the-art health care, biotech, and smart manufacturing,” he adds. “We need to better understand our assets statewide, celebrate them and build on them, rather than making some of them the butt of jokes. We need to set the right tone, and it needs to be set now.”

The tenor Murray’s working parents set for him and his three brothers and sister in the family home just down the street from where he lives today was one of respect, dedication and hard work. His father, Tom, now retired, taught history and psychology at Millbury High School and then ran the guidance department at the school. His mother, Catherine (Cathy), is a registered nurse and still works nights at a drug and rehabilitation hospital in Worcester. His younger brothers, Tom, Jr. and Sean, are in law practice together; his other brother Kevin, works in Worcester for the State Lottery, and his sister, Erin (McMahon), is a public school teacher.

Both Murray’s parents have close ties to Ireland. On his father’s side, his grandfather, Dan’s clan immigrated to Worcester in the 1800s to work on the Blackstone Canal linking Worcester with Providence, came from County Cork. Grandfather Dan was labor leader—as a steelworker, head of the Worcester-Framingham Labor Council and vice president of the state AFL-CIO where he dabbled in politics, the only family member with any experience in elective politics. Murray’s grandmother on his father’s side, Brigit “Bridie” O’Connor, came from County Clare, and was a domestic.

His grandparents, on his mother’s side, Mary (Sullivan) and Edward Williams, came from Killarney and met in Worcester in the 1930s at an Ancient Order of Hibernians dance. His maternal grandmother was a domestic, as well, and his grandfather was a steelworker.

“I suppose you can’t get more basic than that,” says Murray, noting his family’s grounding in a solid work ethic that has been passed down like a family Bible. At the dinner table growing up, he recalls, politics was often discussed, mostly as it applied to government’s function to assist where appropriate. “My parents were moderate,” he says, “but they always taught us to understand there is a social and economic role of government. I never forgot that.”

After graduating from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury where his father had attended school, Murray enrolled at Fordham University, majoring in American studies and cutting his teeth on politics working part-time during school and in summers for then Bronx Borough President Fernando “Freddy” Ferrer, who later ran twice for New York City mayor and lost to Michael Bloomberg. During Murray’s 2 1/2 year tenure with the borough president, he was assigned to work as Ferrer’s representative with the police, fire and sanitation departments, and to work with the housing and planning departments, as well as special projects and advance work. “It reinforced my interest in government and what government can do,” he says, noting the diversity of the Bronx. “It was a rich experience.”

After graduating from Fordham, Murray worked his way through law school at Western New England School of Law in Springfield, attending classes at night and working days as a substitute teacher in Worcester and as an advocate for homeless families in Framingham—another long commute. After earning his law degree, Murray became a partner in the Worcester law firm of Tattan and Leonard and Murray where he practiced general law and civil litigation. He practiced up until eight days before being sworn in as lieutenant governor.

Taking no bows, Murray is quick to cite the love and resolve of his family for his swift rise to the top. “Family keeps you rooted,” he says, stressing his wife’s continuous support and understanding. “Although there were some nights I got the fast ball by the chin by not being around much,” he admits of the long campaign. “But my wife works in the public schools, and understands the negative impacts of budget cuts and the consequences it has on kids. She believes in my devotion to government, she understands the mission.”

As the sun sets on the first week of his incumbency in the corner office, Murray paces his office absorbing the mission, then stares out his third floor window at the State House, down to a statute of John F. Kennedy below. “You got to be a good listener in this job,” he says. “You can’t have all the answers, but when you speak you must be articulate and forceful when necessary. And you can’t be afraid to push the bureaucracy. There’s an inclination in government to procrastinate, to put if off for another day.” 

No likelihood of that in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Not on Murray’s watch. There are no second chances for the kid from the Second City.

 

 (Greg O’Brien is editor and president of Stony Brook Group, a publishing and political/strategy company based in Brewster. The author/editor of several books, he is a regular contributor to regional newspapers and magazines, a political columnist for Boston Metro newspaper and a contributor to New York Metro, Philadelphia Metro and the Op-Ed pages of The Providence Journal. He is currently at work on a book on crisis communications, and contributes regularly to his two blogs: Boston Cod and Codfish Press.)

 

 

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