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Beltrami County administrator submits resignation; Murphy considering other jobs

Tony Murphy

BEMIDJI - After more than a decade as Beltrami County's administrator, Tony Murphy submitted his resignation letter Thursday afternoon to commissioners.

"Over a period of time, the County Board and I have reached a mutual decision to separate," Murphy wrote in an email sent to department heads.

As administrator, the county's top appointed post, Murphy spent 10½ years overseeing day-to-day operations for Beltrami County. His letter said his last day of employment would be May 1.

Murphy said he's received a job offer within Minnesota, but declined to give specifics. Murphy said he's also considering additional job options, and his career interests have always been working in local government.

"I think this is a good opportunity for me, a good opportunity for the county," Murphy said of his departure, which must be approved by county commissioners.

"We will be discussing this on Tuesday," said Commission Chairman Quentin Fairbanks.

When asked to reflect on Murphy's tenure and his relationship with the administrator, Fairbanks said, "I won't comment."

Commissioner Jim Lucachick described Murphy's resignation as a "normal process," adding department heads have left for other job opportunities. He declined to characterize his working relationship with Murphy.

"Someone had made a decision to move on," Lucachick said. "I'll accept his resignation."

A copy of the resignation was sent to the media about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Messages left for commissioners Joe Vene and Richard Anderson after the letter was sent were not returned.

Commission Jack Frost said the resignation came as a surprise.

"I know Tony has received offers over the years," Frost said. "I do wish Tony well. He did some good things."

In his resignation letter, Murphy said he was proud of what Beltrami County accomplished in his tenure.

The county addressed facility needs, including a new law enforcement center, county administration building, judicial center and expanded the jail. Beltrami County also remodeled the historic courthouse, renovated buildings for the highway department and improved its bond rating.

Last year, Beltrami County received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, while Murphy received a certificate of recognition for his budget presentation.

"These accomplishments, with many others too numerous to list, have come as a result of the dedication and professionalism of many contributors," Murphy said in his letter to commissioners. "I feel fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the Beltrami County team for the past many years."

Acting on tips Wednesday about Murphy's employment with the county, the Pioneer made several calls to officials. None of them could elaborate.

In addition, the newspaper, which called Murphy at work and home Wednesday, received a call from him Thursday morning. He declined to speak publicly about his future employment.

However, late Thursday afternoon, Murphy said the call and rumors prompted him to submit his official resignation letter that day.

"Once word gets out ... it's hard to stay ahead of people's inventive minds," Murphy said.

He said he had "a lot of respect for all the commissioners... I have never felt there have been challenges in working with the commissioners."

Murphy's letter said there have been detractors or critics during his tenure, but ended it by wishing commissioners "the very best" and "allowing me to serve the citizens."

Sheriff Phil Hodapp said he had a good relationship with Murphy, who was exceptional at overseeing taxpayer dollars and supportive of law enforcement needs.

"Tony, if anything, has been extremely responsible with taxpayer dollars," Hodapp said. "We have to justify everything we do... That's what you want to see.

He also complimented Murphy and commissioners for committing to keeping county staffing steady during tough economic times.

Frost said Murphy was instrumental in the county's "tremendous" accomplishments in attaining efficiency and building infrastructure, helping Beltrami County become a model for other counties in the state.

"People have come to look at Beltrami County as forward-thinking, progressive, financially sound," Frost said.

But Murphy had critics, he said.

"There was a batch of unhappy folks," Frost said. "I think sometimes it's not what you say, it's how you say it... There are times he ruffled some feathers."

Now, Beltrami County must focus on a transition to a new administrator and Frost said a talented group of department heads will help with the process.

"Hopefully we will be able to find a good replacement. Those are big shoes to fill."