Kevin Murphy's friends described the former Newport Beach city manager in a list of synonyms for "good" or "kind."
Those who remembered him Thursday said it always came down to how Murphy treated others.
"He was bright, he was hardworking, honest as the day is long," said Clarence Turner, a former councilman and mayor from 1986-1994. "You couldn't have asked for a better city manager in my view."
Murphy, Newport's city manager from 1992-1998 and a local resident, died of cancer Thursday at Hoag Hospital. He was 57.
Dennis O'Neil, a councilman from 1994-2002, tried to wrap up all of Murphy's qualities in one fell swoop.
"One on one, he was a very fine, personable, lovely, kind, considerate, genuine, wonderful human being," he said. "He was a devoted family man. I just can't say enough about him. He is truly one of those people who's come into my life that I felt was extremely positive."
Past council members, colleagues and city observers described Murphy as forward-thinking and consistently ahead of the curve in city governance.
"He was a really good new-era city manager," said William Lobdell, the Daily Pilot's editor during some of Murphy's tenure in Newport Beach. "He was well-respected and well-liked in the community. He really quickly became a part of Newport Beach. When he came here from Alhambra, he found paradise."
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly stated that former Newport Beach City Manager Kevin Murphy came from La Habra. He came from Alhambra.
Though Murphy was the city's second choice for city manager when recruited in 1992, Turner said it actually worked out for the best in hiring him when the first candidate withdrew.
Murphy was universally described as dedicated to the job. In the days before email, council members would get phone calls from Murphy at all times of day or night — whatever the job required.
He steadied the city as it faced a former employee's embezzlement, a sexual harassment scandal in the Police Department, a major sales-tax revenue generator looking to leave the city, a central library undergoing major renovations and expanding the city's water resources after jumping over bureaucratic hurdles.
"The reason I wanted to come work at Newport Beach was to learn from Kevin," City Manager Dave Kiff said. "He was known as a forward-thinker and numbers person. Just a good manager and young manager at the time."
"He was very high-energy, very focused on the budget and financial issues," Kiff added. "It was kind of challenging to keep up with him."
For the last 13 years, Murphy was the chief operating officer for Public Agency Retirement Services.
He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA and did graduate work in public administration at Cal State Long Beach.
Murphy is survived by his wife, Tina, and two daughters.