How much better could receiving an award be than the circumstances island Fire Chief Mike Murphy found himself in this weekend?
As host of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association convention at the Marco Island Marriott Resort, he was named the organization's Fire Chief of the Year on Sunday.
Murphy was surrounded by his colleagues, family members and community friends.
"(It) made me think back over the years and think about all the people who helped me get to where I am and this organization get where it is," Murphy said. "I've known most of these people over the course of 30-something years and many of them have come up to tell you (that) you deserve something and it just validates every extra moment and extra minute you put into everything ... It's like the culmination of your career."
The Florida Fire Chief Association is the state's premiere organization for emergency-management specialists and is used as a model throughout the country. The group's 49th annual convention was held this year at the local Marriott and featured a number of speakers and classes.
Murphy was honored because of the many steps he has made throughout the years in legislative and community initiatives. Yet one of the actions that made the selection committee take notice was his service as chair of a state group working on domestic preparedness before 9/11.
"Because of his determination and dedication, Florida was positioned to be among the leaders in the nation in domestic security," said a selection committee statement. "He remains active with the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, State Working Group, Statewide Emergency Response Committee and various county committees."
Murphy was chosen from a group of seven nominees, and until the moment of the announcement, very few of the 800 attendees representing roughly 300 departments knew the name of the winner.
City councilor Mike Minozzi was also on hand to see Murphy rendered speechless when the committee revealed its selection. Minozzi was not available for comment Monday, but City Manager Bill Moss expressed the city's pride in having such a good asset in Murphy.
"To be selected as Fire Chief of the Year is a testament to Chief Murphy's respect among his colleagues for his life-long commitment to leadership in the fire-rescue service," he said. "We are all proud of his accomplishments and for his professionalism and outstanding service to Marco Island."
Next year, Murphy will help other past recipients choose next year's winner.
"I look at all the past Fire Chiefs of the Year and I hold those people as people of honor," Murphy said. "Fire service is just a passion and it's reflected in the hearts of many fire chiefs."
Murphy currently serves on a number of committees, including the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council to handle Collier County services and the Collier County Fire Chiefs Association. He became Marco's fire chief in 2001 after retiring as a chief in Miramar, Fla., where he worked for 30 years and was the first paid firefighter and paramedic hired for the department.