THIS IS THE FIRST in a series of stories profiling Harker Heights public officials.
Voters who elected Sam Murphey to the Harker Heights City Council in 2009 chose an Army veteran with 16 years of political experience.
But that’s not all.
They also chose an American Legion rider, an established financial planner, a loyal friend, a father of two with deep feelings for his wife Peggy and a penchant for banter and adult beverages.
“He’ll help anyone who needs help, just an all-around good guy,” said American Legion Post 573 Adjutant Nathan “J.R.” Vaught.
After retiring from the military in 1989, Murphey, 68, worked as an account manager for the Acacia Group, a Washington-based financial planning firm, until 1991.
Seeking a veteran, former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Democrat, interviewed Murphey to be a liaison for military and veteran communities in then District 11.
Edwards’ camp balked after Murphey listed as references three Republican mayors who campaigned for Edwards’ seat.
“That was my Lesson 101 in politics,” Murphey said. “Pay attention to that stuff.”
Edwards eventually hired him as a case worker, before he rose to deputy district director, he said. He solved complicated problems on a personal level.
The military usually doesn’t ship nonoperational cars overseas, he said. To float a soldier’s stranded car to the U.S., Murphey said one of his employees contacted a Pentagon employee and U.S. Army Europe headquarters employee, before he picked it up and traded it in for the owner.
“There’s nobody but those three women who could get that done,” Murphey said. “That’s job satisfaction, if you like to help people.”
He retired from Edwards’ office in 2007, raised $350,000 for the 2008 State House District 55 general election, but lost to Republican Ralph Sheffield in a GOP-heavy district.
“I put up a hell of a fight, and that was a learning experience,” he said. “I can relate this to my government class. … Everybody wants to pick on campaign fundraising, but it’s expensive.”
He teaches federal and state government courses at Central Texas College’s Fort Hood campus, and sprinkles personal experience into his lesson plans, he said. He also taught business and government classes at the University of Central Texas.
He’s a founding member of the Texas A&M University-Central Texas Alumni Association, which will be open for membership Sept. 6.
After he earned a bachelor’s business degree from the University of Texas in 1967, he joined the Army as a second lieutenant of field artillery, touring Europe, Korea and Vietnam.
In Vietnam, he served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a field artillery forward observer with Alpha and Bravo companies, 3rd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, and later as the field artillery fire support officer with 4th Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry.
He’s a “natural hangout” at the American Legion Jack D. Levy Post, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.
He tracks his genealogy and recognizes his roots.
“I’m Scotch, Irish and German. I get my hard head and taste for beer from the Germans. I got my taste for good Scotch whisky and beautiful women from the Scotch, and the leprechauns kissed me on the cheek when I was born. I’ve got the gift of gab,” he said.
He likes to watch TV and movies, and ride with his wife of 47 years.
“She hears her own drumbeat,” he said. “I like that. That’s strength to me, and I admire that.”
What will he do after city council?
“I’m pretty sure that I want a little more flexibility in my life,” he said. “I’m ready to make a change. … Hop on my Harley with my wife, head out. If we’re gone two days, fine. If we’re gone four days, fine.”