Getting Personal: Robert Murphy

Getting Personal: Robert Murphy

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 47-year-old ROBERT MURPHY, the mayor of Tolono, a University of Illinois police officer and father of five, chats with staff writer Paul Wood.

How do you juggle all that work?

It helps that I thoroughly enjoy all that I do. It also helps that I am an early morning person and need little sleep. I can usually get quite a bit accomplished in those early morning hours.

You're an outdoors guy, camping and kayaking. Not much TV, it sounds like. What's the best thing about the outdoors?

It's nice to be unplugged from everything. Whether it's floating down the river in kayaks or sitting around the campfire, nothing beats a laugh and conversation with the kids or our friends without the interruption of cellphones and other gadgets.

When you walk your big goofy Irish setter, he also visits the Village Hall on Fridays. Can you get much work out of him?

No. He pretty much does nothing but drool and search the trash cans for treasure. Glad I'm not paying him.

You're also on the Tolono Fun Day committee and help cook pork chops on Fun Day. Do you have a pork chop secret?

I do love helping out at the park, and I spend most of my time visiting with people who come by the Fun Day tent.

You work with the local youth group. You've taken a group of high school students on mission trips to Nashville, Tenn. (2015), Orlando, Fla. (2016) and New Orleans (2017). You said you were awestruck and proud when the students requested to stop by the Pulse nightclub and pray for the victims and their families.

It was still an active crime scene, but the students grabbed hands with complete strangers and organized a prayer circle.

You also went on an adult mission trip to Nicaragua this year and built a couple green stoves and a house. That must have been satisfying.

It really was. You never realize how great you have it until you see how others can still manage without the things you take for granted. It's amazing to be involved in something so wonderful and share the word of God.

You lost a daughter to a traffic accident in 2010. Is that something you're comfortable talking about?

Brittany would be 22 now. She was just an amazing person. Always on the go, smiling, an avid runner, all around fun and happy kid. It was really hard right after she passed. Everyone else went back to their daily life when it was all over, and you just can't. My wife, Kelli, suggested we volunteer for the Gift of Hope since Brittany was an organ donor. We dove into that and (for a hot minute) held the Guinness Book of World Records for signing up the most organ donors. The plaque hangs on my office wall. I think she would be proud.

Over the last 10 years while working criminal investigations, you helped author campus policies on security camera use and computer investigations within the campus network as well as writing/serving over 100 search warrants. In 2014, you received The Outstanding Staff Award from the Women's Resources Center and Officer Of The Year in 2007. Great job! What do you see next?

I have accomplished just about all my goals in law enforcement so next would be retirement in four to six years. Although, I don't know if I can be too idle! Our oldest son lives in Wisconsin with his wife and my two grandchildren. One daughter is at Illinois State University majoring in special education for low vision and blindness. The youngest son is a junior in high school and has plans to join the Army National Guard in February and do his basic training next summer. The youngest is a freshman in high school and also wants be a teacher. I'm sure my wife and I will get to do lots of traveling to visit them.

What's something almost nobody knows about you?

I love to cook. Especially, my secret steak marinade recipe. Our friends and family call it "Murphy steaks," and I get requests to make them all the time. We have a great backyard and love to have friends and family over for cookouts.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Irish whiskey and a good cigar.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

One of my favorite authors is John Grisham, imagine that, a mystery writer. Currently I'm reading a David Baldacci novel called "No Man's Land." I read a lot of case law and current news, so it's nice to read fiction once in awhile.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Ireland. Because I'm a Murphy.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Definitely Finnegan. My wife swears he is really not an Irish setter. He weighs 110 pounds and has crazy wild hair like a wolfhound. Actually, the only thing that looks like an Irish setter about him is the red hair. He is 8 years old now, so he is getting better, but he was quite a handful when he was younger. Destroyed every delivery UPS ever delivered, took Grammy's wig, stole the neighbors' scarecrows from their front yard (left the evidence in my front yard) and took a box of wine from the house of a neighbor. His kleptomania has since gotten better.

What's your favorite sports team?

I'm not a big sports fan, but I do love to go to Cubs games, and I follow the Illini.

What would you order for your last meal?

Steak and Maine lobster.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

I really don't have a favorite musician or genre but do love all types of music, especially the older country. We try to make it to a John Hartford bluegrass festival every year in Indiana with our friends. One song that is stuck in my head is "The sound of Silence" by Disturbed, the only song I like by them. They put together a music video and dedicated it to police officers, and it's really intense.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Of course the birth of my kids, but my wife and I got married in Vegas by Elvis at the Howard Johnson. The chapel smelled like urine, there was a dog in the lobby and I'm pretty sure Elvis was drunk. It was the most fun I've ever had in my life.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

There are a lot of people I would love to have dinner with, but the first three who popped into my head were Trump, Obama and Drew Barrymore. Drew is a no-brainer, and my wife knows about my not-so-secret crush. When it comes to Trump and Obama, I have a lot of questions I would love to ask them. I would fix them steaks with twice-baked potatoes, and as the steaks are cooking on the grill, we can sit around the pool and visit.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

There are many people through history who I have admired, but the one who headed me toward the path of law enforcement was Allan Pinkerton. I read a bibliography on him in grade school and liked how he was a detective, spy, as well as protected the president. He seemed to do it all and left a legacy.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

The personality trait I don't like about others is not being able to actively listen to another person's beliefs or ideas without getting mad. I love to talk to people about their culture, religion or thoughts and feelings about subjects. I don't always agree, but I try to keep an open mind, and if more people could do that, we would have less violence in the world. What I need to change in my life is I'm quick to sum a person up. This may be an occupational hazard from working in law enforcement for so long, but I need to give people a chance to prove themselves.

What's your best piece of advice?

Don't hold grudges and forgive people. You will have less stress in your life.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

When I was in grade school, I mowed yards, shoveled snow, and put advertisements on cars for a local gas station. In high school, I worked at the Sullivan IGA for $3.35 an hour. I also bucked hay and weeded beans for the local farmers during the summer.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

I have led a pretty blessed life but have had some tragedy, which I wish I could have prevented. One regret I do have is not staying in college and finishing my degree when I was young and had a four-year scholarship. I obtained an associate degree and dropped out to join the workforce and start a family. It then it took me 20 years to finally finish my bachelor's, but I did it.