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Gone fishing, City Attorney Frank Nakamura retires

Feb 01, 2018 11:12AM ● Published by Shaun Delliskave

Retiring Murray City Attorney Frank Nakamura has counseled three mayors in his service to the city. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

Gallery: GoneFishing [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

For once, Frank Nakamura was caught off guard at a city council meeting. Though he has drafted hundreds of resolutions for the city, Nakamura was not expecting to be the focus of one at the last city council meetings of 2017. Mayor Blair Camp and the City Council approved a joint resolution honoring Nakamura for his nearly two decades of service to Murray City. 

Nakamura’s ever calm demeanor gave way to a change that nobody on the city council could recall. “Oh gosh, I’m getting some dirty looks over there,” joked Councilman Brett Hales. “I’ve had dirty looks but not dirty looks from Frank before.”

“This is a real pleasure because Frank loves the limelight,” Camp also jested, referring to the very private Nakamura’s discomfort before he read the resolution. 

Nakamura began his career in the Salt Lake City Attorney’s office in 1987 and was there for 12 years, becoming a deputy city attorney along the way. Murray lured him over in 1999 to direct the City Attorney’s office. The joint resolution noted that Nakamura has been involved in every one of Murray City’s legal matters since taking the reins.

Nakamura has had his share of interesting legal cases, including defending the city from a $3 lawsuit (in damages) by an atheist who took the city to court concerning a prayer. He has also made a number of weighty legal decisions, such as determining that the law wouldn’t allow a third-place primary election candidate to advance to the general election due to one of the candidates dropping out.

His lasting legacy may be his dedication to the Utah Open and Public Meetings laws. The city recognized him as the guiding hand behind the city’s transparency and as a stickler for ensuring that all municipal meetings are conducted by the code to keep public meetings open. Due to his efforts, Murray was recognized in The Salt Lake Tribune as the city that has held the fewest closed public meetings of all the Utah cities it reviewed.

Nakamura was also recognized for being personally open and for never turning away anyone who asked to meet with him. He was praised for always remaining calm and unflappable, especially in critical, high-pressure situations. The calmness has come in handy, as for the last 19 years, he has literally sat between the mayor and council members in sometimes acrimonious city council meetings.

“I always brag about the staff that I have and to be able to work with you all every day,” said Nakamura. “To a terrific staff…I got to tell you that they’ve been so loyal.”

“I wish you would have told me this was going to happen tonight. Oh, that’s the only time that they have ever been disloyal to me,” he said smiling. “I love this city. I love everybody that I work with. I am lucky to be in a position where it’s so hard to leave and so difficult to leave. It was very special for me to work here.”

“I come in and talk to him. He keeps me honest,” remarked Councilman Jim Brass. “And maybe now that he’s retired, he might take me fishing, because he has talked about fishing this particular spot up in Wyoming.” Brass also revealed one of Nakamura’s hidden passions, NASCAR. “I teased him that he did not fit the typical NASCAR fan image.”

Camp hinted that Nakamura may still be involved with the city: “I just want to assure everyone that Frank is not really retiring, he is taking his talents and spending his time somewhere else, but this man is not going to retire.”

“I expect you’ll see me in other capacities. I do anticipate working for government again,” confirmed Nakamura. With a quick laugh, he concluded, “I’m just taking my pension, and I hope to double dip.”

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