Q&A with Maureen Murphy

New Door County Administrator Maureen Murphy stepped into her role Oct. 1. Photo by Katie Sikora.

New Door County Administrator Maureen Murphy may be a newcomer to Door County government, but she’s not a newcomer to Door County or government itself. Murphy, who served as village administrator in Slinger before being hired by the county in August, has been working in government for 20 years, and she’s been coming up to visit Door County for most of that time.

Since starting with the county on Oct. 1, Murphy’s been acquainting herself with the members of the county board and attending meetings, as well as trying to figure out exactly where in her office to put all of her Door County paraphernalia.

Pulse reporter Matt Ledger sat down with Murphy on day eight of her new job to see how she’s been settling in. Following is an abbreviated version of their conversation:

Matt Ledger (ML):  How did you get into government work in the first place?

Maureen Murphy (MM):  I come from a long line of public servants. My mother and father both worked for government, and my grandfather was a police officer with the city of Milwaukee many years ago. So it kind of runs in the blood.

I’ve been doing this a long time. This is my dream job. I’m very serious about that. This is the job I’ve wanted for about 20 years. I wanted to be a county administrator particularly in Milwaukee County or Door County. That was really where I wanted to end up because we’ve been coming up here on vacations for most of my 20 years working. We bought land up here 10 years ago and then built a house about five years ago.

This is really to me the end of the rainbow. I don’t want to sound too nerdy, but it really is.


ML:  I know it’s only day eight, but is there anything specifically that you’re looking at that you need to start doing?

MM:  Right now we unfortunately lost our parks director George Pinney. So while George is irreplaceable, we do need to find a parks director. That’ll be a priority for us for the next month or so. Of course, we’re going through the budget right now, so those two items will keep us busy for the next month or so.


ML:  Looking at the budget is there anything that’s looking tight, or being squeezed, or are the numbers okay?

MM:  The numbers are okay. The downturn in the economy in 2008 caused us all to have less.

What allows us to grow in government – and this is across villages, cities, and counties – is something called net new construction. So when there’s a slowdown in growth, and there has been a slowdown since 2008, right now we’re only allowed to grow by 0.8 percent of our value. So that causes some decisions to be made, but I think we’re in good shape here.


ML:  The last person who had your position kind of butted heads with the county board here and there about streamlining departments or various things. Are there any concerns there?

MM:  I’m not here to talk about what the last person did. I don’t think it’s my position to do that. What I am looking forward to is developing a relationship with the county board that is participatory. That’s the word I like to use.

[There are] 27,000 citizens plus in Door County. Each one of those citizens can’t come to me and tell me what’s important to them. It’s impossible. I’d like that to happen, I’ve invited all of them down to my office, but as a practical matter, that can’t happen.

What they’ve done is they’ve elected these 21 people to be their voice in the building, so it’s important that I know that. It’s important that all 21 members of the county board feel that they can come and talk to me about whatever their concerns are or expectations are. They’re closer to the people than I am.


ML:  Your husband already worked in the county, right?

MM:  He does. Since March he’s been here at Jim Olson; he’s one of the sales managers. So he’s been up here, and I’ve been commuting. I’d work in Slinger, and I’d commute up here on Friday nights. I have 15,000 miles on my vehicle since March, so I’m very happy I managed to get hired by Door County before the winter because I was not looking forward to that winter driving. I’m very happy that this all worked out the way it did.


ML:  What do you love about Door County so much that you guys decided to move here?

MM:  Everything. It’s beautiful; it’s just beautiful. My husband and I, we’re both interested in art. He wants to get back into that. He’s had a career that’s kept him busy, but he does some watercolors and chalk. And of course I’ve taken some classes at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in my free time, although honestly I look at my job as if it’s 24/7.

But if I have some free time, the place is just beautiful. I can walk out my driveway and see a lighthouse, where else do you have that? Here as the Door County Administrator, we in Door County own the lighthouse at Cana Island. I mean that is just so cool…we own a lighthouse!


ML:  What are you absolutely most excited about?

MM:  There isn’t just one thing, can you tell?

I’m just most excited about being here, really, honestly. And hopefully I keep that excitement for the whole time I’m here. This is a great place, and it’s got great people. Not only is it a great place visually, but the people are all extremely friendly.

And a lot of people want to be us. I don’t know how often we think about that, but I’ve gotten a few promotions over my lifetime, and I had hundreds of emails once this went in the statewide papers with folks saying that’s just the best place ever to be, congratulations on getting the position. It’s the place to be, it’s the place people want to be.