The July 20th Marco Island City Council meeting began with a celebration of accomplishment and dedication to duty, as Council Chairman Eric Brechnitz read a lengthy proclamation detailing the accomplishments of Fire Chief Michael Murphy.
Murphy will be retiring later this summer after a half a century in an occupation which he had always aspired to and loved with all his heart. Murphy had come to Marco Island after a distinguished 30–year career with the Miramar Fire Department, before moving here with his wife Barbara 20 years ago to assume the chief’s position. Barbara Murphy and Mike have been married for 45 years and have raised both a daughter and son. They have two beautiful grandchildren who reside locally with their parents.
Mike Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a career firefighter, and their daughter Andrea Leiner a certified family nurse practitioner.
Murphy didn’t come to the job for a pension or a health plan, he came to it for a love of the profession he had always dreamed about. When the opportunity to move from a volunteer status to a fulltime position within the Miramar Department, he jumped at it and never looked back. He also became one of the first paramedics in the State of Florida.
In the sport of hockey, a player is fortunate to score three goals in a single game. Murphy holds the distinction of handling three separate hurricanes here on Marco during his two decades serving as the community’s fire chief, earning him a “hat trick” of his own. Hurricanes Charley, Wilma and Irma visited Southwest Florida while the Marco department was under his command, and during each occurrence, the department and staff walked away with glowing accolades for their performance.
At the council meeting on Monday evening, Murphy’s voice was cracking with emotion as he spoke about his love for the job, the professionals he has worked with, both inside the department and the city itself. He gave credit to former Deputy Chief Chris Byrne and his replacement Deputy Chief David Batiato for their roles in helping him perform to a higher standard.
The tragic passing of Chief Donald DiPetrillo of the Seminole Tribes of Florida, a close friend of Murphy’s passed from the effects of the novel Coronavirus early in March of this year. The loss of such a close friend caused Murphy to reflect on his future. City Manager Michael McNees evaluated all of his staff in March and suggested many of those with a combination of health and age issues to distance themselves from possible exposures to conditions that might compromise their own health.
It was then that he and Barbara jointly agreed that the time was right, and he began the transition himself to prepare for the next chapter in their lives.
He spoke proudly of the fact that Marco Island was not just a job, but instead had become what he referred to as he and Barbara’s “hometown,” and this would remain their home even after retirement.