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Know Your Commissioner: Heidi Murphy

Know Your Commissioner: Heidi Murphy

This month, we get to know CARPC Commissioner Heidi Murphy, who also serves as a Trustee for the Village of Cottage Grove. In addition to her expertise in planning, geography, and environmental studies, Commissioner Murphy brings a positive outlook and fresh perspective to the Commission.

Heidi Murphy joined the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission just over one year ago in July 2019, a few months after being elected to the Cottage Grove Village Board. Based on her background and interests in planning, geography, and environmental studies, she volunteered in response to the Dane County Cities and Villages Association CARPC commissioner recruitment.

Commissioner Murphy has always been interested in community building and fostering an environment where everyone belongs. She believes it should be possible for everyone to have a home, job, and hobby all within their community and is invested in examining how that opportunity can be built. For Heidi, her work as a CARPC commissioner highlights another facet of community building: developing a greater understanding of how we interact with our natural environment.

As a Commissioner, Heidi enjoys the opportunity to bring together diverse topics such as land use, transportation, water quality, and housing. In her view, this is reflective of the diverse community types and opportunities Dane County has to offer in terms of its landscape, resources, community characters and densities, types of land, and land uses. As one of the commission’s younger members, Commissioner Murphy brings a balancing perspective that complements the experience and institutional knowledge of longer-tenured commissioners.

Heidi originally hails from Cambridge, Wisconsin, where she grew up volunteering and dancing pointe, tap, and jazz. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geography at UW-Madison, where she also completed a GIS certificate program along with course work in urban and regional planning and environmental studies. This background is extremely helpful in analyzing studies and understanding the impacts of commission decisions.

Commissioner Trivia: While completing her GIS Certificate, Commissioner Murphy created a 100-mile food map with a group of other women. In the days before Yelp and Google Maps became food-finding platforms of choice, this pioneering map allowed users to narrow down the type of food desired and find out where to get it.

After graduating, she worked for the US Census Bureau in Chicago assisting with mapping for the 2010 census. She also conducted outreach among communities with a low historical mail response rate and offered education on the importance of participating. After the census was complete, she continued working in the Bureau’s geography department updating borders and shapefiles and contributing to ongoing surveys. She eventually became the regional coordinator for the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which measures the consumer income, spending, and demographic data that is used to calculate the Consumer Price Index.

Looking for a change of pace, Commissioner Murphy spent some time as a substitute teacher in a Chicago suburb before moving back to Wisconsin in 2016. She and her husband settled in Cottage Grove to be close to family and work. In 2018, she decided to harness her lifelong drive to serve her community by running for public office. After a solid campaign of knocking on doors, handing out yard signs, and holding meet and greets, Heidi and the two other candidates she worked with were elected to the Village Board.

In addition to CARPC, Heidi serves on six Village committees, including the Utility Commission and the Ad-Hoc Sustainability Committee. She also chairs Cottage Grove’s Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Committee.

So far in her public service career, Commissioner Murphy’s favorite project to work on has been building a splash pad and shelter in Cottage Grove’s Bakken Park. Before she was elected to the Village Board, Heidi served on the initial planning committee and worked on the splash pad’s design. Now as the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Chair, she is proud to see it through the planning phases and into construction and looks forward to the ribbon cutting next year. With its extension of the Glacial Drumlin bike path, shelter available for rent, and baseball park for kids of all abilities, the whole Bakken Park project is something to proud of.

Outside of her civic duties, Commissioner Murphy embraces her spirit of fun and optimism through gardening and plant care, hiking, crafting, and spending time with her mini poodle, Pepper. She and her husband are known to go all out decorating their house for the holidays – and when we say “all out,” we mean “musical light choreography shows.” To celebrate autumn, her favorite season, Heidi creates an elf-on-a-shelf-esque tableau in her front yard using skeletons that change outfits everyday according to an annual theme.

Commissioner Trivia: Commissioner Murphy’s now-infamous yard skeletons have their own Instagram.

Despite the extreme preference for cats observed among CARPC staff, we have yet to find a Commissioner that shares this fondness. Commissioner Murphy is no exception; though she did have one special cat growing up, she believes that was the only cat she’ll ever truly love.