Serving as the city's host in 2012
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Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011

Serving as the city's host in 2012

Surgeon leading Democratic National Convention host committee

When Dan Murrey lost his re-election bid for Mecklenburg County commissioner last fall, he knew there would be other opportunities for public service.

As a prominent spine surgeon and CEO of Ortho Carolina, the 46-year-old was not left twiddling his thumbs, wondering how to fill his time.

"I was trying to re-evaluate how I could contribute," said Murrey, when the call came from the mayor asking him if he'd be willing to serve as the executive director of the Charlotte Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention.

Murrey initially was reluctant, wondering how accepting the job would affect his family and medical practice, but he decided it was as exciting an opportunity for him as it is for Charlotte.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both of us," he said.

Murrey, who now has a paid staff of 15 and plans to double that by the time of the 2012 convention, initially was the only employee.

"The start-up was extremely challenging, but things are running much more smoothly now," said Murrey.

Part of the challenge was determining what the job entailed since, as he puts it, "there's no job description on Monster.com for this kind of thing."

What Murrey and his team are charged with is to meet the obligations of the city's contract with the DNC. This includes raising $37 million, working with the city to coordinate traffic and security, serving as the liaison and coordinator among all the entities involved in the convention, overseeing the construction and production of the arena space and promoting the convention to Charlotte and the region while promoting Charlotte to the rest of the nation.

Promoting Charlotte comes easily to Murrey, who first moved to the Queen City from Tennessee in 1983 to attend Davidson College, where he met his wife, Katie Oates, 47. The couple moved back to Charlotte in 1997, settling in Dilworth to raise their children: Sam, 15, and Lucy, 12.

"People know us for banks and basketball, but Charlotte was chosen because it is a city that is reinventing itself and represents what is new and exciting," said Murrey.

Murrey plans to highlight three things he thinks distinguishes Charlotte. The first is Charlotte's hospitality, and by that Murrey doesn't mean only its Southern friendliness but the city's "openness to allowing folks to come here and be themselves."

Charlotte's second distinguishing feature is the opportunity it provides residents to thrive. Inextricably linked with the promise it offers those with can-do initiatives is its expectation for service - the third distinguishing feature Murrey plans to highlight.

"We are extraordinary in the degree to which we engage civically," said Murrey, pointing to Charlotte's distinction as a highly philanthropic city but also one that encourages citizens to give back.

That is good news for Murrey, since he will need to rely on that support and can-do spirit to carry out his mission. He is obligated to line up 7,000 volunteers, but he anticipates needing significantly more.

He is also hoping grassroots fundraising will help raise the capital needed to put on the convention and that donations cut across party lines.

"We are not a partisan organization," said Murrey. "We represent Charlotte."

He said he has been gratified to see that both residents and businesses alike appreciate what a good thing the convention is for Charlotte regardless of political affiliations.

Denver, Colo., which hosted the 2008 DNC, reported $200 million in direct spending as a result of the convention being. Hosting a convention of this size serves as a gateway to other opportunities, as evidenced by Atlanta's hosting the 1996 Olympics after hosting the 1988 DNC.

Murrey said he is enjoying being at the helm of such an exciting opportunity for the city he loves and considers home.

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at bowserwoof@mindspring.com.

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