How Code Enforcement Murray Walker does it

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
gfischer@weeklycitizen.com
Code Enforcement Officer Murray Walker poses at his desk for a candid interview on March 20, 2017.

Murray Walker is a staple figure in the Donaldsonville community. Known for his friendly nature and welcoming smile, Walker is a self-proclaimed philanthropist.

But beware! He might just seize that old hunk of junk that's been sitting on your yard for the past 30 years. The Chief sat down with Walker about threats, junk, and masons. Here's what we learned.

I know the council mentioned last week, "that's why we pay you the big bucks, Murray." What is your salary?

(Laughs) That was a joke. I do it because I love my city. We're just going to leave it at that.

Do you have family?

I do. I'm married to a retired major with the sheriff's office. She worked for the sheriff for 34 years. I have two kids. My oldest son passed away in 2008. He was a sickle cell patient. The sickle cell anemia foundation has become near and dear to me. Every chance I get I do a fundraiser and donate to them.

My family is from Donaldsonville. I'm raised here all my life. I do whatever I can to give back to Donaldsonville.

Where did you go to school?

All my school from elementary to high school was done here. I went to Donaldsonville Primary, Lowrey Middle School, and I'm a 1989 graduate of Donaldsonville High School.

How long have you been at this position?

July will be a year since I have been at this position. My background, I worked for 12 years of my five as a firefighter. That right there tells you a lot about me. I love helping people, and I would do anything I can to help a person if it is within my being.

I took this position because I want to see my city improve. I want people to come here and say, "Wow, Donaldsonville is a beautiful city." I don't want people to think that what I'm doing is because I'm being mean. That's not what it is. Donaldsonville has an ordinance. That ordinance states that you cannot have junk vehicles on your property or on city property for that matter.

Junk meaning the vehicle isn't operable. I'm not in the business of taking anybody's vehicle. Nor is the city of Donaldsonville in the business of taking anybody's vehicle, but at the same time we want our city to be beautiful. And not just one section of our city. The whole, entire city. That's why I do what I do.

What did you want to be as a kid?

As a kid, honestly, it was law enforcement or a firefighter. I did both sectors, and I enjoyed it. I love doing what I do. I was always in the public's eye, and I still am.

Describe a typical day at the office.

A typical day at the office would basically be brushing up on city ordinances and building codes. Once I spend an hour or two in that, then I get in my truck and patrol the city. I ride around and venture off to see what code is being broken or what vehicle is sitting out there and needs to be brought to the owner's attention.

Do people call you to give you tips?

Sometimes they do. But for the majority of the time, I'm just roaming the city and seeing where there is a violation as far as junk vehicles. There are times where someone will see me, whether it be in Walmart, the local grocery store or whatever, and say, "Hey can you check on this vehicle at such and such address? It's been sitting there for a while."

What's the biggest conflict you've ever had with somebody since you've been doing this? Is there some instance that went a little haywire?

I'm not going to say it went haywire, but the most interesting thing just happened. A friend of mine approached me.

I wrote up the vehicles in their yard, and he came back and said, "I know you were doing your job. I understand that, but just watch yourself because people are talking. They're planning on hurting you."

Again, I want them to understand that I am only doing my job. That's what I want people to understand. I'm not out here to hurt anybody, nor do I want anybody to hurt me. I can't stress that enough. It's just like the people that read your water meter, or the Entergy person. They have a right to come on your property and do what they need to do. I'm only here doing my job. I just want them to respect my job just like I respect them as citizens of Donaldsonville. Know that I have a job to do. It's all about respect.

I value my life. It's nothing personal. Strictly business.

No one has pulled out the shotgun yet and said, "Get off my yard?"

No. I thank god that hasn't happened, yet. Nor do I ever want it to happen. Really and truly it's not that serious. I try to go to the person's residence and knock on the door to let them know what I'm doing. If no one's home I'll look at the vehicle and write it up. They have 10 days from that point when the deputies come to serve them the paper. Once he serves it he brings it back to me, and I tag the vehicle.

If you need more time than the 10-20 days to remove that vehicle, all you have to do is ask. If you're having hardships like battery issues or insurance issues, all we want to hear is "Hey, can you give a little more time?" We'll be more than happy to work with the person. All they have to do is ask.

How many vehicles do you tag on a weekly basis?

That can vary. The initial assessment when I took the job was over 400 vehicles total. On a weekly basis I may do 17-25 vehicles. That's basically because other things come up that I need to tend to. Last week about 22.

Who's your favorite music artist?

Maze would have to be my all-time favorite group. If I was to name an individual it would have to be Keith Sweat. That's me.

What's your favorite movie?

Bad Boys. One through all of them. You get your action and comedy all rolled into one.

Favorite book?

I really don't read. I read codes, but I'm not going to say that's my favorite book. I'm not going to say I know all the codes, because I don't. This job takes a lot of time. It's a lot of work. A city this size, one person doing all the work is tough. But it 's my job. I chose to take the job and I'm up for the challenge. I'm doing the job for five people.

What's your favorite thing about this job?

I get to do what I've always done in the past. I get to assist the public. It could be a simple question like, "Do I need a permit for this, or that?" An old classmate recently came to me and asked about a permit for a shed in her yard. It's not about "Man, don't come on my yard and do this, do that," I'm educating them on what needs to be done. With me, my favorite part is assisting the public. I always will be a people person. I don't claim to know it all, but I'm willing to learn.

What's your least favorite part?

Dealing with the threats. The public really isn't educated enough. Majority of them tell me that they didn't even know that they had such an ordinance that they couldn't keep their vehicles on their property. The least favorite part is dealing with you threatening to do bodily harm to me. It's not that serious.

What happens when this ends?

When this job ends, then I end. As long as the city of Donaldsonville, the mayor, the council, the citizens allow me to be here, then I'll be here.

What do you want on your tombstone?

"Here lies a person who gave his all, gave the best that he can, and helped whomever he could along the way."

I'm a Christian and I'm a firm believer that if I help someone along the way, then my living is not in vain. I try to live by that on a daily basis. I've been told over and over that my smile brings light to someone else. When they don't see me smile, then they know something is wrong. (Laughs)

Are you religious?

I am. I'm a Baptist. I go to Mt Triumph Church in Donaldsonville. I'm a member there. I try to stay active, busy and focused on community oriented events. When I'm not here working there's a truck club that I belong to called Titans Taking Over, based out of Baton Rouge. It's a great group of guys who have trucks. I still have an organization called Community Outreach Riders. We base ourselves on helping out communities. Whether it be feeding communities or assisting with mentoring, stuff of that magnitude. I also belong to Hiram Lodge 12, a masonic lodge. I ride motorcycles as a hobby.

Isn't that contradictory? Someone told me masons are anti-Christian.

Don't believe everything you hear. We base ourselves on Christianity. You can put that on record! We are based upon community service.