LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - They have served the people of Calcasieu Parish for 34 years, but Parish Administrator Mark McMurry and Executive Secretary Coleen Clark will soon retire.
Both started working for Calcasieu under former administrator, the late Rodney Vincent. They've served under some 77 police jurors over the years and seen parish government evolve into one that is recognized as one of the most progressive in the state.
KPLC video from 1982 shows a young McMurry with dark brown hair. He's speaking before the parish budget committee. "The federal government has trimmed dramatically the grants that they are making available to local governments." But even if you know him well you might not have recognized him from the 1982 video since his hair is white now.
We find a young Coleen in the old video too. Both Clark and McMurry have spent more than three decades working for the Calcasieu Police Jury. And while Calcasieu Parish is widely recognized for achieving excellence on many fronts under his leadership, McMurry says modestly his one achievement has been to hire the best people. "The ability to recruit people to work here that were much smarter than me and to maybe have the good sense to get out of their way and let them do their jobs within their skill sets and we really made that work here. We've made quite a management team."
As well he is pleased to have had a hand in improving the quality of life in Calcasieu Parish for people including his own children and grandchildren by working to promote excellence in local government. "This is a $220 million a year business and I think we have by and large been able to operate it as such and to create the efficiencies and the effectiveness that citizens should expect."
As he leaves, McMurry credits Clark with helping him meet the challenges. "I've likened her before to the old Radar character on MASH. "So many times Coleen knew what I was thinking even before maybe I had completely collected my thoughts."
As Mark retires so will Coleen who says he's been a great boss. "I wouldn't have wanted anyone else. Rodney (Vincent) before him and then him now. It's just been great."
And each hopes to pursue new opportunities for the future.