Itâ€™s hard to imagine that an unassuming, polite woman may very well be the most widely known person in LaVergne. However, the sweet, white-haired lady who sits at the welcome window of the cityâ€™s water department is the one person all newcomers must talk with when they come to LaVergne. She will ask for proof that you live at your address and she will ask for a modest deposit. Elizabeth Murphy will then tell you when you can expect your water to start flowing. If youâ€™re a longtime resident, sheâ€™ll smile or say hello as you pass by heading for the cashier window to pay your bill.
At least she will for just a few more hoursâ€¦ really minutes now measure how much longer will Elizabeth chat with water customers, eat with the cityâ€™s grant writer Montique who shares the same lunch break, and file whatever paperwork crosses her desk. After tomorrow, Elizabeth is calling it quits.
She started working at the age of 17 and now that 51 years have passed â€“ the last four years with the city government â€“ Elizabeth is retiring. Her retirement is bittersweet because she has loved getting to know the people of LaVergne. Sheâ€™s been saying her farewells these past few months to her favorite customers like â€œMiss Maryâ€ whose voice she always recognizes as she lilts â€œHi Elizabeth!â€ on the telephone. She has said good bye to the man who always has a smile and cheerful greeting when he sees her. Elizabeth will miss them, along with countless other familiar faces who always speak with courtesy and kindness.
Some things wonâ€™t be missed, however. For example, the Wednesday water cut-off days are not particularly fun. Extremely irate customers come in or call, not willing to accept that their own non-payment is the cause of the water in absentia.
Working for the city has given Elizabeth first-hand insights on how the city functions. She believes as a taxpayer, there are things that should be corrected on behalf of everyone who lives in the city. Elizabeth believes the new human resources director is a good first step because he brings a new perspective and fresh set of eyes to the city. She hopes he will be able to make good recommendations to the mayor on how to affect positive change.
One very positive change for which Elizabeth is responsible as a city worker began in 2007. When new service customers came to open accounts, she began checking to see if they owed money from previously unpaid accounts. In just the first six months of instituting this system, she collected over $7500 that would have remained otherwise unpaid. Elizabeth hopes the water department will continue to collect past due accounts after sheâ€™s gone if the new service customers owe money.
Elizabeth has more ideas she would like to see the city implement, including more firefighters and police officers, better roadway maintenance, and more restaurants. Elizabeth also wants to see the city spruce up the green areas of Murfreesboro Road by adding trees and flowers, and hopes business will do the same. â€œI want LaVergne to raise its standards and show some pride,â€ she said, adding that Ingram Boulevard is very nicely maintained with weeping willows and nicely trimmed grass.
However, Elizabeth has no plans to dwell on the things that will improve the city.Â Instead, she plans to just relax for the rest of the summer. She might do some chores around the house like cleaning out closets and making minor household repairs, but otherwise you might find her at the ball park watching her grandson, Alex, play. While her sons are important to her, Alex is her pride and joy.
â€œHe keeps me young,â€ said Elizabeth. â€œI have been a big part of his life since the day he was born and just love when he has his friends over, watching him play baseball, and spending time with him.â€
In her retirement, Elizabeth also hopes to do some traveling. Sheâ€™s always wanted to see the Eastern states and cities like Washington, DC, Williamsburg, and Boston. She looks forward to going to local flea markets and wants to find a flea market buddy. Elizabeth also hopes to do more research on her ancestry. She knows her great grandfather came over from Switzerland and she still has his papers where he was sworn in as an American citizen in 1862.
But overall, after 51 years of hard work Elizabeth plans to simply enjoy life. We hope she does â€“ in abundance and with joy.
Ms. Murphy we thank you for your years of hard work, your kindness, and your generosity. You will be greatly missed by the citizens of LaVergne and we hope that if you pass us in the store or if we see you at a yard sale or ball park, youâ€™ll stop and take a moment say hello.
A retirement reception is being held for Elizabeth on Friday, July 30th at City Hall starting at 3:00 p.m.