The heart of governance: Murray City’s boards and commissionsMar 08, 2023 01:45PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
The Murray Arts Advisory Board. (Photo courtesy of Murray City)
It’s a thought that has probably drifted through many Murray residents’ heads, “How can I be more involved in my community.” Fortunately, Murray City has an answer for that—volunteer to be on one of its many boards and commissions.
Murray City’s sense of community, history and stated commitment to progress is an innovative approach to governance. The city’s unique system of boards and commissions are tasked with making recommendations and providing advice on various issues affecting the city.
“Many positions require the board member to be a city resident. Relevant experience, whether volunteer or work related to the specific board, is also extremely helpful,” Murray Mayor’s Administrative Assistant Kathy Miller said.
Historically, the city realized that the best way to ensure Murray’s continued growth and prosperity was to tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise within the community. The city created a series of boards and commissions, each focused on a different area of city life. From parks and recreation to planning and zoning and even the arts, Murray City had a board or commission for every aspect of city life.
Members of these boards and commissions are appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. Many are selected for their expertise and passion for the specific area they would be serving. Generally, members of each board are chosen out of each city council district, with some larger boards having at-large members.
Parks and Recreation Board Member Daren Rasmussen works at the State of Utah Department of Natural Resources Dam Safety & Stream Alterations. His wife Joelle serves on the Murray City Library Board of Directors and the University of Utah Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Rasmussen said, “We are scheduled to meet as a board every second Wednesday of each month with a Murray City Parks & Recreation staff member present (usually the director). We review Parks & Recreation facilities, amenities, and issues pertaining to utilizing experience, research, and public viewpoint. As warranted, we provide advice to Murray City Parks & Recreation staff, the mayor’s office, and the City Council. We act as a liaison between the city and the citizens representing the citizens to their city and also the city to its citizens.”
Ali Lyddall who serves on the Murray City Library Board of Directors adds, “I have the same responsibilities as the rest of the board as far as hearing reports from the library staff, recommending changes to policies and voting on issues. As the board chair, I conduct the meetings and I am responsible for conducting the annual evaluation of the library director and submitting a report to the city government.”
The boards and commissions are tasked with gathering information, conducting research, and making recommendations to the city on various topics. They met regularly and are open to public comment, providing a forum for community members to share their opinions and ideas.
“Except for the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Ethics Commission, all other boards are advisory to the staff, mayor, and council. Board members should understand this when making recommendations,” Miller said.
As the Murray Library has the ability to assess a tax, board members must approve any request for a tax increase.
“I was nervous when I was approached about joining the board, but only because I didn't know much about what the library board was responsible for or how it functioned. It is a serious thing to be responsible to sign off on how the library assessed city taxes are spent, but there is abundant transparency and opportunity to ask questions when needed,” Lyddall said.
One of Murray City’s most active boards and commissions is the Parks and Recreation Board.
“I am amazed at how many programs and events Murray Parks & Recreation provides. Murray City has taken an interest in preserving history by renovating the Murray Mansion and restoring the Murray Theater. The board has reviewed decisions regarding these and has provided input,” Rasmussen said.
As part of gathering information, the Parks Board canoed Murray’s part of the Jordan River. They reviewed seating options for the Murray Theater by sitting in samples of various seats. They also gave input into the soon-to-be-renovated Murray Armory reception center.
Another critical board in Murray City is the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission is responsible for reviewing development proposals and recommending land use, zoning, and development to the city council. In addition, the commission works closely with developers, community groups, and city staff to ensure that new development aligns with the city’s vision and values.
“Except for the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Ethics Commission, all other boards are advisory to the staff, mayor, and council,” Miller said.
The Murray Arts Advisory board comprises artists, musicians, and cultural enthusiasts passionate about promoting the arts in the city. They advise Murray Parks & Recreation Director Kim Sorenson and Cultural Arts Manager Lori Edmunds on concerts, shows, and exhibitions utilizing the Murray Amphitheatre, Murray Museum and Murray Fun Days.
While most boards are strictly volunteer, the city provides an annual boards and commissions recognition dinner. However, some benefits of serving on a board are less tangible.
“Some benefits to serving on a board include a broader perspective of local government, opportunities to provide input regarding board decisions, annual recognition night, and an opportunity to meet the mayor and council prior to being appointed,” Miller said.
“A challenge I have faced on the board is understanding the many different viewpoints from all perspectives, but this is also rewarding when being able to put the pieces together like a puzzle and recognizing solutions that are a great fit for Murray City and its citizens,” Rasmussen said.
Those interested in serving on a Murray City board should contact Kathy Miller at the mayor’s office. A list of boards and commissions can be found on the Murray City website: www.murray.utah.gov/115/Boards-Commissions.
Salt Lake County also seeks residents to participate on countywide boards: www.slco.org/get-involved/boards-commissions/.
However, serving the community does not have to be connected to a commission; instead, plenty of local organizations are continually looking for volunteers.
“The Parks & Recreation Department frequently utilizes volunteers for outdoor projects, sports programs, and senior recreation programs. Service organizations such as the Exchange Club, Rotary Club, the Boys & Girls Club, and NeighborWorks also have volunteer opportunities for the Murray community. Also, we are always appreciative of volunteers in our schools and religious organizations,” Miller said.