The Smithtown Highway Department turned the page on a tumultuous 2015 on Tuesday, when Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) swore in newly appointed Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy.
Murphy, 52, served as the interim superintendent after Glenn Jorgensen resigned in October and pleaded guilty to charges that he falsified public documents. Jorgensen, who had been in the position for about six years, was also accused of sexually harassing one of his employees. Murphy was deputy superintendent from 2012 until the beginning of his interim term this past year.
“I’m confident that Mr. Murphy will continue to perform as he has over the past few months,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. “He’s open to suggestions for efficiency.”
Vecchio also said he’d received more complimentary calls from the community regarding the highway department’s handling of two snowstorms in 2016 than any other storms he can remember.
The supervisor was responsible for nominating Murphy to take over as the permanent superintendent, and the board unanimously approved him.
“It is an absolute pleasure to appoint Mr. Robert Murphy as Smithtown highway superintendent,” Town Board member Lisa Inzerillo (R) said in an email. “Many phone calls from Smithtown residents have come in letting us know what a wonderful job Mr. Murphy has been doing. Robert demonstrates dedication to this position, highway employees and the residents of Smithtown; therefore, appointing Robert is the best decision for our town.”
Murphy said in an interview that he has about 25 years of experience in the engineering field, and a business management degree from the University of Phoenix.
He and his wife Kim both graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1981, and he has lived in Smithtown his whole life, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona.
Murphy returned to Smithtown about six years ago, and before becoming deputy highway superintendent, he spent about two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County. He and his wife, who manages an East End Disabilities Associates group home in Riverhead, have a 25-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.
“I’m a people person,” Murphy said, when asked which of his qualities would help him in his new position. “I’m a facilitator. I love to get things going in the right direction, and that’s what’s happening at the highway department right now. Communicate with the people, show them respect and they’ll give respect back.”
Murphy said he believes a key to his position is bringing jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride. And Vecchio said he’s noticed an uptick in worker morale since Murphy took over.
“For the four years that I was there and then the interim period, you always think, ‘Let’s change this,’” Murphy said. “Now it’s on your shoulders and you’ve got to make sure you try to implement different things and see if they work and just be a good leader. If you’re a good leader, then guys will follow, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Murphy said that he’s looking forward to the challenges and work that he has ahead of him.