Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray is following in the footsteps of his father, Eugene Murray, who served as village mayor from 1987-2007. We sat down with the current Mayor Murray on St. Patrick’s Day, which is an important date for him personally, to learn about growing up in Rockville Centre, what he learned from his dad and what he hopes to accomplish while at the helm.
Here’s 10 things we discovered about him.
1. He was not only raised in Rockville Centre, but he was born there, too, at Mercy Hospital in 1951. Murray, who is one of eight children, attended Watson Elementary School and St. Agnes Grammar School. “Growing up playing sports in this village was very special to me. In those days there were no ‘play dates.’ Everyone’s doors were unlocked literally, even at night. And we were always riding bicycles.”
2. In high school, he cleaned buildings and waxed floors for his family’s cleaning business, which he eventually took over. “My dad had a very huge influence on me growing up and still does now. He taught me all about work and work ethic, but just as importantly he taught me about giving back.”
3. “I’m a Parrothead,” said Murray, referring to the nickname given to Jimmy Buffett fans. Recently, the mayor held a Hawaiian-themed “Margaritaville” benefit complete with a Buffett cover band at Molloy College in Rockville Centre. The event drew about 500 people and raised more than $17,000 for the Rockville Centre Community Fund, which Murray’s father established in 1987. It provides financial assistance to Rockville Centre residents who have fallen on hard times.
4. At 62 years old, he’s still an active firefighter.
5. He married his wife, Barbara, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1973, and had an Irish-themed wedding. “We were eighth-grade sweethearts at St. Agnes.”
6. He’s lobbying for funds to turn Rockville Centre into a resource for other communities when the next natural disaster hits. “The only places who generate their own electric on Long Island are us, Freeport and Greenport. So after superstorm Sandy hit, we were the only one with lights. I was getting calls .?.?. to turn on Oceanside, turn on South Hempstead, but we can’t do that. But the governor is talking about mitigation money that’s out there and we’re trying to get it to put more power in our plant and modernize it, so we can help communities with the next storm.” Murray also said he’s lobbying to build a satellite office for the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management in Rockville Centre that would house first responders responding to disasters in nearby communities including Long Beach and Island Park.
7. On his first day of office, he changed parking in downtown Rockville Centre drastically. “Store owners, restaurant owners were complaining they were losing market share, their customers were leaving. People were going out for dinner .?.?. and they’d put money in the meter, they’d forget, have a bottle of wine, and come out and find a ticket. My first act as mayor, that night after my father swore me in, I stopped all ticketing for expired meters after 6 p.m. and the place exploded. Everyone wants to come here.” Murray said when he took office two-and-a-half years ago, the business occupancy rate was at 82 percent, but now it is 98 percent.
8. He remembers a more affordable Rockville Centre from his youth. “It’s a very, very different place. It’s more of a professional place to live. If you want to live here, the housing is $500,000 up to $2 million, so if you are a blue collar guy, it’s kind of hard to live here. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or good thing. It’s great for the real estate, but the issue is my own children can’t live here now. On a positive side, almost every house in this village has been redone or close to it. It’s beautiful and the downtown is much more vibrant than when I was a kid.”
9. His vision for Rockville Centre’s future includes consolidating the village’s firehouses, relocating the police station and erecting a parking structure in its place. “I’d like to merge two of them. If that happens, I can move the police station down to Centre Avenue and knock down the [current} police station for parking. It is right by the railroad and that’s one of the spots identified by Long Island Index to build a parking structure. It would be a great spot for it, because it’s surrounded by buildings, so it wouldn’t be an eyesore.”
10. He likes being mayor. “I like this job. It fits me and I think we’re making a difference.”