Baker City’s new city manager outlines vision & plans for the community

By on Thursday, January 4th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

BAKER CITY — Service and excellence. These two traits that are vital to America’s military are what Barry Murphy says he hopes to bring to his new role as city manager of Baker City.

Murphy, 44, was officially named city manager by the Baker City council after the council voted to approve his contract on Tuesday, January 2.

Murphy was chosen in December among two other candidates for the position. He begins this new job after a long and distinguished career in the military. He was an F-16 pilot in the Air Force, then became a commander. He most recently was wing commander for the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

Murphy says his connection to Baker runs deep. “Baker City itself is a special place for me and my family.” Growing up as a military kid and frequently moving around, Baker became a constant for Murphy and his wife, Courtney. He says despite being from Southern California, Courtney’s roots in Baker turned the city into a home for the couple and their seven children.

Reflecting on his military career, Murphy emphasizes the parallels between his command roles in the military and the responsibilities of a city manager.

“The job I’m tasked with is very similar to the job I just left, running a base,” says Murphy. “I had to oversee the base fire department, the base police department and all the public works. So very similar to what the city manager does here in Baker.  When I saw that it was open, I was excited because I felt like even though it was a very different context, that I’d be able to bring a decent amount of experience to the job and I’m excited to be able to serve a community like Baker that means so much to us.”

Murphy knows he has a tall task ahead of him stepping into this role. Among the many challenges he has to address is the current budget shortfall of nearly $1 million, as well as staffing shortages at the police department.

“When things are tight and money is short, you have to learn to be really good at prioritizing and to be able to do that you have to be able to ask good questions and meet people face-to-face to discuss the challenges and priorities,” said Murphy.  “I’m looking forward to working with the council and the team at the city to look for innovative solutions. You know that you might be facing constraints, but there are ways you can innovate to capture different processes and things that either don’t cost as much or don’t cost as much manpower.”

“So I’m excited to kind of look at it from that standpoint too, how we can innovate to hopefully build things better in the future.”

Engaging with the tight-knit Baker community is also a priority for Murphy. He says plans to leverage personal networks, seek feedback from residents, and meet with community leaders across various sectors. Murphy emphasized his willingness to listen, stating, “I’ve never been afraid to ask feedback from people in communities that I was leading because I’d rather know about the problems.”

He says despite the challenges the city faces, as well as the challenges he’ll face learning a new position to run a city, he says he wouldn’t change anything.

“I loved serving my country and having that higher calling and I view this job exactly the same,” said Murphy. “Myself and everybody else that works here at the city is here to serve the residents of Baker City and that should be something that motivates us and inspires us.”