When Patrick Murphy ‘00 narrowly defeated eight-term city councilor Rodney Elliot this month he secured more than the mayorship of Lowell, MA, he also won the title of the city’s youngest mayor in over seventy years.
Though he is just 29, Murphy has been involved with politics for several years.
According to “The Boston Globe,” Murphy’s political career began with a run in the special election for Congress in Massachusetts’ fifth district in 2007. In 2009, Murphy was elected to the Lowell City Council.
Despite his age, Murphy believes he’s just as capable as his predecessor, James Milinazzo.
“The question is how you are able to build relationships with colleagues and other people in the city to be able to get things done, and to get beyond the conflicts that tend to creep up from time to time,” said Murphy.
Since the beginning of his political career, Murphy has visited thousands of homes throughout Lowell to share his ideas.
“Mailers and telephone calls are not as effective. They disengage people from the political process. When you visit people not ordinarily visited, there are better results,” said Murphy.
Throughout his political career, Murphy refused to accept any campaign donations. He also does not accept in-office stipends, pensions or other benefits offered by the city.
He said, “[Asking for money] corrupts the process. Particularly on the local level here, there’s no reason why people can’t make the effort to show up to people’s doors and really connect with them on a personal level. That’s the only way you engage people.”
Murphy’s interest in politics stemmed from a desire to help the common citizen.
“There were things that needed to be addressed in the city, and things that weren’t happening and weren’t being talked about in the city that needed to be voiced,” said Murphy.
According to Murphy, the mayor of Lowell serves three major primary roles. In addition to serving as a figurehead of the city, the mayor chairs the city council and appoints members to council subcommittees, including the school committee, which he also chairs.
“As mayor, you are in a unique role, being able to put people in touch with others and really move things along,” said Murphy.
Murphy is concerned about financial obstacles the mayorship may encounter over the upcoming year.
He said, “I expect that there will be a number of cuts that may make an impact on the local budget. That constrains you in a number of different ways, but it also requires a great deal more [of] creativity [in] how you address problems.”
While in office, Murphy aims to address city crime, foreclosures and other housing issues. On top of all of that, Murphy hopes to provide all of Lowell’s students with access to a decent education.
Murphy said, “Lowell is making significant progress on all fronts with crime rates declining the last two years, vacant and foreclosed properties being redeveloped and changes to the schools being implemented by a new Superintendent.”
A member of a fifth-generation Lowell family, Murphy has lived near Lowell his whole life. His late grandfather, George B. Murphy, never went past the second grade, and his father, Dan Murphy, was a carpenter who returned to school in his 30s.
Though his grandfather never completed elementary school, he served as a state representative from 1947 to 1949 and as a city councilor from 1954 to 1958, according to “The Boston Globe.” The elder Murphy greatly influenced his grandson.
“I don’t think I would have seen politics as an avenue if it were not for the example of my grandfather, who looked out for the people who most needed it,” said Murphy.
According to Murphy’s website, he came to Phillips Academy on a four-year scholarship in 1996 with his twin brother Dan Murphy ’00, following their sister, Gráinne Murphy ’96.
“I think I was accepted on my sister’s merit,” joked Murphy. “She really paved the path for me to go [to Andover].”
He lived in America House his freshman year, with Paul Murphy, now Dean of Students, and Stearns for the next three years.
Murphy fondly remembers participating in Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vote On Inner City Empowerment), a community service program, with Rebecca McCann, former Instructor in Spanish. As part of the program, Murphy tutored Spanish-speaking immigrants in Lawrence studying for naturalization exams to become U.S. citizens.
Murphy remembers Tom McGraw and Lou Bernieri, Instructors in English, as being important mentors during his time at Andover.
Murphy also recalled the influence of Raj Mundra, Instructor in Biology, who was his twin brother’s house counselor. According to Murphy, Mundra has since stayed in contact with the family, making it to several Murphy family occasions and weddings.
Although he was not a varsity-level athlete, Murphy trained as an amateur boxer at Ramahlo’s West End Gym in Lowell.
After Andover, Murphy attended Trinity College in Dublin for one and a half years, finishing his education at American University in Washington, D.C.
Holding both Irish and American citizenship, he decided to study in Ireland because he thought his Irish roots were a significant part of his heritage. Taking mostly history and literature courses at Trinity, Murphy enjoyed his time abroad.
Like the city government of Cambridge, MA, the Lowell City Council, which consists of council members and a city manager, votes every two years in November for a mayor.
The mayor, vice chairman and council members all have the same length of terms and must also be residents of Lowell.