Milling about at an event held in the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center last year, a well-dressed couple wondered aloud how long the building’s namesake has been deceased.
Not only is he alive and well at age 79, but Murray, who was appointed to his second term as planning commissioner last week, wants everyone to know that he has no plans to slow down.
“I love Mission Viejo, and I love public service,” Murray said. Working on behalf of the community where he has lived since 1971 “is still fun.”
Public buildings are generally named in honor of someone deceased, but the work Murray has done for Mission Viejo more than qualifies him for recognition.
He was the city’s first mayor and one of the organizers behind the Mission Viejo cityhood campaign starting in 1985. His local involvement started several years before incorporation when he volunteered in 1978 for the Mission Viejo Municipal Advisory Council, a pre-incorporation liaison between the community and the county.
Even after one of his few setbacks, losing a City Council election in 1992, Murray refused to fade away. Instead, he joined a local citizens group that worked to defeat a proposal to build a new City Hall building and got involved in the Mission Viejo Historical Committee. In 1994, he stepped back into City Hall, winning appointment to the city’s planning commission.
“He’s still such a vibrant person; I call him up about issues and he knows all the background,” said Helen Stamate, who met Murray in the late 1970s on the Municipal Advisory Council. “He’s a person who is really in this for the community, not for his own self-esteem.”
Murray remembers driving to South County with his wife, Mary--the couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary later this month at, where else, the Norman P. Murray community center--to look for a home in 1971.
“It was a beautiful Sunday,” Murray said. “We thought it was absolutely gorgeous down here.” Three hours later, the couple bought a house. “The salesman lectured us for being impulsive,” said Murray, “but 27 years later, we still live in the same home.”
Murray had come from Bellflower, where he was one of the driving forces in that city’s incorporation in the late 1950s. Later, he was elected to two terms as a Bellflower council member.
Figuring he had a lot to offer a fledgling community, Murray began volunteering his time in Mission Viejo.
The natural beauty and the community spirit of the residents have made it easy to keep working for the city over the years, he said.
“I have a strong sense of loyalty for Mission Viejo,” he said. “I think the secret for any community is the loyalty people have for the place they live and there’s a lot of it here.”