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ESF Alum Leads Lyons DPW

Lyons' new DPW boss downplays gender


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

By CRAIG FOX / Times Staff Writer

LYONS—Newly appointed village Department of Public Works Superintendent Deborah Murphy knows what it's like to work in a male-dominated industry.

For the past 15 years, Murphy, 41, has been an environmental engineer, most recently for Nyetech Engineering, which has offices in Rochester and Syracuse. She has worked in the office, on the job and in the field—almost exclusively with men.

Because of that, she?s downplaying the fact she/s become boss to 11 village employees who are men.

Then again, she also acknowledges that she might be breaking new ground as perhaps the region's only female DPW superintendent.

"Yes, it's unique," Murphy said. "It's certainly an industry dominated with men, and I will be working with a lot of them."

In New York state, there are only two women in charge of county public works departments, according to the County Highway Superintendents Association. It's not known how many women are in charge of public works departments in village or towns, but Murphy and village officials realize it's not many.

The Lyons Village Board unanimously appointed Murphy, a former village trustee, to the $50,000-a-year job Jan. 4, making her the village's first public works superintendent in five years. She started the job Jan. 10.

With a budget totaling $1 million, Murphy oversees the public works, water and sewer departments. In just her second week on the job, she's already involved in several projects in the village and plans to undertake several others that have been delayed because the village didn't have someone to oversee them, village board members said.

She was one of 14 applicants and three candidates interviewed, Mayor John Cinelli. She had to resign from the village board to take the position.

A Vermont native, she came to the area to attend Wells College in Aurora, Cayuga County, and then transferred to Syracuse University, where she graduated in 1985 with a degree in environmental studies from the forestry school. Her expertise is in environmental law and management.

Her first job was working for the federal Environmental Protection Agency looking for abandoned oil and gas wells in southwestern New York before becoming a surveyor for five years.

With her years of experience in the field and a deep devotion to Lyons, trustees concluded she was the only qualified candidate.

"We were looking for someone to be a manager, and she has a lot of experience," Cinelli said Tuesday night. "She has a big interest in Lyons and is community oriented."

The appointment raised some eyebrows because she was on the village board before she was appointed.

Even Murphy acknowledged some people have questioned her credentials.

"There have been some questions about my experience, but I don't think they knew about my background," she said.

When former DPW Superintendent Charlie Bowers left the position in 1999, the village board decided to see if the position could be left vacant, Trustee Jack Bailey said.

Soon after Bailey got on the board, however, trustees began re-examining the need for the job, he said.

Foreman Arthur "Butch" Schutt was in charge of the three departments, but he was seen as a more of an on-hand type of boss, Cinelli said. The village needed someone to handle supervisory duties, scheduling and keep track of employee training, Bailey said.

Last fall, they advertised for the position and set up a search committee consisting of trustees Dennis Alvaro and John McGory, who recommended Murphy to fill it, Cinelli said.

At Tuesday night's village board meeting, Murphy was called on to talk about what she's been working on since her first day on the job. Murphy listed some of the projects, including briefings on what's needed in the three departments, working on getting a fence built near the new community center and getting rid of some graffiti on the village gazebo.

Later, Terry VanStean, who's considering a run for mayor this winter, criticized the timing of the appointment. He wanted to know why the position was filled now, and why it wasn't delayed until a new budget year in July.

However, he said he was satisfied with the board's explanation about the appointment process and why they chose to fill the long-time vacancy when they did.

About $15,000 of her salary for the remainder of the budget year will come from a reserve account, Cinelli said.

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