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Former longtime state Senator from Cumming at ease back home
Murphy reflects on his work for Forsyth
Murphy
Murphy

CUMMING — After 12 years in the Georgia Legislature, Jack Murphy may be having an easier time getting used to life outside politics than some of his constituents.

“It’s funny. I have people contacting me, wanting me to pass legislation, or wanting me to vote on certain legislation,” Murphy said. “I tell them I’d be glad to take a look at that if I was going to be down there. Some of these people I have known for a long time and they had no idea that I didn’t get re-elected. That will continue to happen for a while, I think.”

Nearly halfway through the 2015 legislative session, some of his constituents may still be learning Murphy’s seat is now filled by District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams. But it’s a reality Murphy’s been coming to terms with since he lost his bid for a fifth term in the July Republican Primary runoff.

He’s also trying to walk a fine line between staying active and letting go after two terms in the state House and four in the Senate.

“I am absolutely not going to miss that drive down [to Atlanta] and back every day. But there are a lot of things I’m absolutely going to miss in the session,” he said. “… You can’t just drop that like it was never there.”

Murphy won’t have to miss his fellow Forsyth delegates because he still keeps in touch with them, particularly good friend and District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton. The two met years ago through the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

“I remember thinking he was crazy when he agreed to serve as chairman of the chamber while also being president of the South Forsyth Rotary Club at the same time,” Hamilton said. “Little did I know that I would do the exact same crazy thing several years later.” 

Murphy also was instrumental in Hamilton’s House bid when Murphy, a fellow businessman, pursued the Senate post. They served eight years together, occasionally assisting each other with legislation to help foster Forsyth’s growth.

“Jack and I worked together with others to make sure the Forsyth County Conference Center received state funding as a part of the Lanier Technical College facility expansion,” Hamilton said. “I sometimes wonder how we held so many great local events before it opened.

“The Forsyth County Library system is one of the finest in the state and Jack was certainly part of the reason we received the $2 million in state grants for each of them.”

Despite his accomplishments, Murphy said he left some unfinished business, such as a medical marijuana bill and how to make Georgia more welcoming to the solar energy industry. And there is also the state’s ongoing transportation funding problem, an important issue for Forsyth and its myriad commuters.

Murphy said he finds himself pondering ways to help. “But then a little voice in my head says, ‘It’s not my business’ … and I’m relieved about that in a lot of cases.”

Reflecting on his tenure, he recalled his first bill, which required a Magistrate Court judge to be a licensed, practicing attorney “because before I passed that law, anybody could be [one].”

Murphy would sign his name as sponsor to dozens of bills that went on to become laws. Among his proudest achievements for the county, he noted the role he played in securing funding for the Department of Driver Services Center, the National Guard Armory and the University of North Georgia’s Cumming campus.

But for the state, Murphy said his most impactful bill was the one making it illegal to text while driving.

He also pointed to smaller bills, such as the one allowing students to carry EpiPens in case of emergencies at school, where previously they had to go to a school nurse.

There was also the bill that allowed firefighters to get a driver’s license for free and one allowing people to get handicapped placards with a doctor’s approval and not a notary.

“Little laws like that make big differences in their lives,” Murphy said. “I think I helped a good many individuals.

“I think I made a tremendous difference in Forsyth County … I’ve been here over 30 years and I’m proud of what I’ve done, and that I made a difference in the state.”

Hamilton said he and Murphy would often go bird hunting together in south Georgia when the session was out. They also shared many laughs, including a roast of Murphy by friends and peers in Cumming.

“It was meant to be fun. But with me, and others like Harris Blackwood and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, we were able to take Jack's serious demeanor and really have some laughs,” Hamilton said.

“Just because we are good friends, that didn't mean that Jack and I always agreed. Jack was, and still is, his own person. And accordingly has his own thoughts and convictions. Of course, [his wife] Linda usually wins those battles and we all are glad she does.”

After a long weekend cleaning out his garage and taking care of neglected chores, Murphy said it’s been nice catching up. It’s been just a few weeks away from the Senate, but he’s content.

“The Thursday before session started, I told [former colleagues] I’ll be sitting out there looking at my garden, having a cup of coffee and I’ll think about y’all,” he said.

As for the future, Murphy hasn’t ruled out any possibilities.

“I’m just going to take it easy for a while and really weigh things heavily before I jump into any of that,” he said. “I won’t mind getting involved. But if I do, it’s got to be something that’s going to make a difference.”