Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's new parks director is a private school astronomy teacher and former financial consultant who has served on several boards and commissions in the state.
Mike Murphy, 60, will take the helm of the Division of Parks and Recreation, which manages a collection of parks, lakes, rivers and other natural areas totaling nearly 220,000 acres across the state.
For the last seven years, Murphy has taught astronomy and physics at Ravenscroft, a K-12 private school in north Raleigh. He also spent 15 years at Trident Financial Corp., where he directed mergers and acquisitions as president and managing director. An Ohio-based holding company bought the firm in 1999.
Murphy said Wednesday that the top parks job is the culmination of a long-time interest in the natural world. Growing up, he said, he camped often and spent 10 years as a Boy Scout.
An environmental science major at the University of Virginia in the 1970s, he returned to the study of science in 2000 after years in the Navy and business world, earning a master's degree in astronomy from the Swinburne University of Technology.
"I've been lucky in my life," Murphy said. "I was able to pursue a great many things that interest me."
Among Murphy's work experience are a number of appointments to state boards and nonprofits. As president of the Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, he chaired the committee searching for the museum's new director.
During that time, colleagues say, he worked with museum staff and leaders at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which also oversees the parks system.
"They got to see him at work and see how he could produce results," Angela Baker-James, executive director of the Friends of the Museum, said.
Baker-James said she's confident Murphy will be a good choice for the post.
"He is truly a leader," Baker-James said. "He's a smart man, and he knows how to get things done."
When he takes over on July 22, Murphy said one of his big priorities will be the planning of the parks system's 2016 centennial celebration. He said it will be an ideal opportunity to promote the parks and launch a major capital campaign.
"This is a big thing, because the state parks system was founded the same year as National Parks Service," Murphy said.
His predecessor, Lewis Ledford, retired at the end of 2013 after 37 years in the parks system, where he began as a ranger. In October, department leaders announced they would conduct a national search to find his replacement.
Murphy said he's excited to spend time talking to rangers and continuing to provide services to visitors in the parks, which he said are among the most efficient in the country.
"We have a lot to be happy about," Murphy said.