Regan Murphy

Two-term mayor of Robbinsdale Regan Murphy has announced that he will not seek re-election in the fall.

Murphy has been involved in a host of social, economic, growth and planning issues. His favorite? Injecting a little zeal back into the neighborhood.

“There’s this pride that’s been reignited in Robbinsdale,” he said. “We have this long history, at its height in the 1950s and ‘60s, and then in the ‘70s, the school closed. There was a lull, a change in demographics. It’s been exciting to be a part of this transition.”

Others have also picked up on the revitalization of Robbinsdale. Last November, the Star Tribune called the city’s burgeoning downtown restaurant scene a “little Eat Street.” Over the last several years, the area has welcomed several new places to dine, two breweries, a grocery store, and 350 units of high-density housing.

Murphy’s favorite moment was an exchange with a senior resident at National Night Out.

“He said, ‘Oh, so you’re the one that’s got Robbinsdale humming again!’” Murphy said. “It was so cool to hear.

“We are a unique community; there’s not a lot of suburbs like Robbinsdale. We’ve got people from all walks of life, everyone works hard, plays hard. Once people move here and realize that, it catches on.”

From resident to mayor

Murphy started in civic life with turns on the city’s Parks and Rec and Planning commissions. He was also a founding member of the Heart of Robbinsdale Community Foundation, a now-defunct nonprofit that raised funds and awarded grants for local community initiatives and events.

He ran for mayor on a three-tier campaign in 2012: to increase economic development, strengthen neighborhoods and create a safer city. From the economic development perspective, Murphy is confident that he and the council, which has remained unchanged throughout his tenure, have laid the “groundwork” for future councils. Safer cities and stronger neighborhoods will be issues that need constant and ever-changing attention, Murphy warranted.

“There will always be something like porch pirates or people stealing catalytic converters,” he said. “We’re next to the largest city in the state.”

However, Murphy said what is key is a support cycle from the city to the police department and from the department to the community. Making sure the department feels appreciated and encouraging any outreach opportunity has served the city while he has been in office, he said.

The efficiency of the council is thanks to a nonpartisan and collaborative council, Murphy said.

“Nobody [on the council] has these ideological differences beyond Robbinsdale, political or whatever else. We got along and get things done quickly,” he said.

He’s also picked up a few firsts along the way. Murphy is the youngest Robbinsdale mayor and the first mayor who was born in the city. His transparency and outreach on social media channels like Facebook also set him apart from his predecessors, which he chalks up more as a reflection of the more modern world than a unique strategy.

Not many may know that during Muprhy’s first year on the job, he worked for free. The Robbinsdale Historical Society reported that after campaigning on a promise that he’d donate his first year’s pay, Murphy returned his $10,000 salary to help build the park pavilion in Lakeview Terrace Park.

In the future, Murphy expects issues like the Blue Line Extension of light rail, transportation and infrastructure in general to be hot topics for the future council. Socially, he thinks the perceptions of the city and its schools will need to be addressed.

‘New generation of leaders’

Murphy said he still has a lot of energy and support to give to the city, its people and its haunts, but first, he needs a “breather” and time to focus on his family.

“I need to paint some walls in my home that haven’t been done in 15 years,” he joked.

Murphy has lived in Robbinsdale with his wife Kristy since 2005. They have three children.

“It’s so cool to have been a knucklehead kid growing up in Robbinsdale, and then come back and pour a little passion and new energy into the city and see it flourish,” he said. “It’s been one of my proudest achievements. There’s a lot of things I’m going to miss, but I’m looking forward to stepping down and letting a new generation of leaders take over.”

Just who will hold the mayor’s gavel next in Robbinsdale remains to be seen. So far, only councilmember Bill Blonigan has announced his bid for the seat. Blonigan has served Ward 1 since 1980. The filing period for mayor and the Ward 1 and 2 council seats begins in mid-May.

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