Keeping everything together

Senior Stephen Murray serves as the youngest member of the Coconut Grove City council. Lindsay Brown // The Miami Hurricane
Senior Stephen Murray serves as the youngest member of the Coconut Grove City council. Lindsay Brown // The Miami Hurricane

Imagine waking up to a slew of insults and then, instead of finding time to deal with it, all you can find is a full schedule of classes. Such is the life of college student-turned-politician, junior Stephen Murray.

As a newly elected member to the Coconut Grove Village Council, he has had to find a balance among his college life, work life, social life and now, his political life.

After posting a response to City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s statement about a cyclist that was killed by a drunk driver in the area of Key Biscayne that he represents, Murray received a lot of negative feedback.

“One of the first things I realized before running was that there would always be people who disagreed with me,” Murray said.

However, Murray kept his head up and found positive responses soon after the original negative comments.

“By the time I came home from class, there was even more positive feedback and many calls from other people in the community praising me for standing up for what I believed in,” he said.

While constantly being in the public eye, often facing criticism and rarely having a moment of free time may not seem like the ideal life for a college student, but Murray does not seem to mind.

“I saw a lot of real problems in the West Grove area and the City of Miami was doing an insufficient job of addressing them, so I decided to do something about it,” Murray said of his position on the council.

During the campaign period last November, he had his first issues with juggling time between school and politics. Professor of political science Dr. Ramon de Arrigunaga taught Murray while he was running for office.

“He had to miss a few classes for political campaign work and rallies, but overall, his participation and victory in the election enhanced the learning in class,” de Arrigunaga said.

Murray has been at this balancing act for quite some time; now the only difference is the title he can place with his name.

“I’m an activist. I’ve been involved in campaigns to help people for a while now, so the only real physical change is a two-hour meeting each month that I have to attend,”  he said.

Maria Lorca, Murray’s former international studies and economics professor, knew Murray was something special when he turned in a paper about the mismanagement of waste issues in New York City.

“His paper really stood out and caught my eye,” she said. “Most students that take my intro class usually write papers about general economics.”

When Murray decided to run for office at 21, he knew the cards were stacked against him. Even his professors like Lorca questioned his ability to commit time to both school and his potential seat in office.

Murray uses organization as the key to staying on top of his studies, as well as success on the political front and in his job as a research/teaching assistant at the School of Business. Another tool he uses is application of his tasks to more than one of these time constraints.

“Sometimes I get lucky and get an assignment I can use politically. For example, just last week I used an English assignment I had written as a post on my Web site,” he said.

Right now, Murray is working on proposing several subcommittees to address the problems Coconut Grove is facing, while planning to graduate next May.

For more information on Stephen Murray and his causes, visit

Colleen Dourney may be contacted a