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Murray is new Sandusky mayor

Andy Ouriel • Jan 4, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Sandusky city commissioner Dennis Murray Jr. now shares a remarkable political trait achieved by Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — all four can boast about serving two terms as president.

Commissioners voted 6-0 on Friday to nominate Murray as the board’s president, or ex officio mayor, during a special meeting in City Hall. Commissioner Keith Grohe didn’t attend Friday’s meeting because of health reasons.

It’s Murray’s second stint as president, having served once before in 2008.

Murray, a partner in the Sandusky-based Murray & Murray law firm, previously served as commissioner from 2005 to 2008 and later won an election as the area’s state representative.    The president, mostly a figurehead position with no special voting powers or political privileges, primarily sets discussion topics and controls time limits during public meetings.

In short: Murray’s vote carries as much power as any other commissioner’s vote.

But the president’s entrusted with one major responsibility: Murray can take command of police operations and other city resources during an emergency, terrorist event or some other public danger threatening lives.

Sandusky’s president earns $6,400 a year. All other commissioners receive $5,200 annually.

After the nomination, Murray spoke about spearheading Sandusky’s revitalization during his next two years as president.

“Today marks an occasion for Sandusky to renew its relationship with our citizens, our businesses and our neighbors,” Murray said. “Each of us has a role in shaping public debate, in impacting our perception and reality as a place to do business and in attracting the economic development that our communities need to help position Sandusky and Erie County as places to raise a family, grow a business and live our individual dreams”

Murray also made various promises, including how he’d:

• Govern Sandusky with full fairness and without any bias toward any other commissioner.

“Each of us is a duly elected representative of our neighbors,” Murray said. “Each has a right to be heard and each an obligation to try to understand the perspective of the others gathered around this table”

• Collaborate with city officials, such as the police and fire chiefs, to better understand all pertinent issues.

“Too often, commission meetings have been setups for department heads, leading to embarrassment or a hesitation to answer fully,” Murray said. “All of us who have served before, me included, have been guilty of this. It has to stop. It is counterproductive, leading to less discussion, less innovation and less consensus”

• Study the issues before public meetings.

“The materials are not terribly long and usually of manageable complexity,” Murray said. “I hope that we never again witness a commissioner opening the packet at the commission table”

• Host public forums.

“I plan to conduct a series of town halls to discuss city issues, the budget over the years, our services and hear from residents about what they want Sandusky to be” Murray said.

• Listen and respond to neighboring governments when attempting to strike deals or compromises.

Murray alluded to possibly creating districts for both countywide fire and sewer operations — consolidating numerous and separate political subdivisions, offering fire and water service, into one agency — piggybacking off successes from a regional 911 communications system.

“If you propose cooperation, I will listen and be actively engaged in the conversation” Murray said.

• Serve the residents.

“I promise to do my best to answer your questions as best as I can, to foster a government attitude of transparency and accountability,” Murray said. “Each citizen is entitled to as swift and complete an answer as we can muster”

Commissioner Dick Brady defeated commissioner Julie Farrar to become Sandusky’s vice president. Brady serves in Murray’s role when the president is absent or can’t serve for whatever reason. Commissioners didn’t reveal how they voted for vice president.

Before the nominations, city officials swore in Brady, Murray and Naomi Twine. The trio each secured individual four-year terms after winning election in November.

The three join commissioners Farrar, Keith Grohe, Wes Poole and Jeff Smith.

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