TAMPA — Voters won't cast ballots for nearly 18 months, but Tampa has its first candidate for its 2015 city elections.
Police Sgt. Borthland R. Murray has filed papers with the Supervisor of Elections Office to run for the City Council District 5 seat held by Frank Reddick.
Murray, 47, has been with the Police Department almost 25 years and works with one of its Rapid Offender Control squads. ROC officers use intelligence about repeat offenders and crime patterns in their zones to focus on street crimes such as drug dealing, burglary, robbery and prostitution.
Murray said he plans to retire in January, but wants to stay involved in east Tampa, where he has worked most of his career.
"My goal is just to serve," said Murray, who goes by Burt. At the Police Department, he worked on the agency's QUAD squads, which targeted drug dealers, as well as in narcotics and internal affairs. "I think I have a different point of view that will help the city."
Murray's latest personnel evaluation includes mostly "above expectations" ratings and a smaller number of "meets expectations" ratings. He received the top rating — "excels" — in leadership.
Over the years, Murray also has shown a willingness to take on his chain of command.
In 2003, he raised red flags about Tampa officers who worked security at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games and gave scalped tickets that they confiscated to family and friends.
An internal affairs investigation concluded that officers redistributed confiscated tickets for at least five years, but it did not recommend disciplinary action against the captain he had accused — his supervisor — because she had retired and moved across the country.
The practice was ordered stopped after Murray complained to then-Chief Bennie Holder, but the investigation did not take place until Steve Hogue became chief and learned of the allegations.
In 2008, Murray wrote a memo to the City Council and then-Mayor Pam Iorio estimating the city could save $6 million in salaries, pension payments and other benefits in part by eliminating 14 police lieutenants and one major.
Hogue told the council that Murray's estimate was "wildly inaccurate" and seemed to assume that the supervisors he wanted to cut each cost the city an average of $400,000 a year. "No city employee makes anywhere near that kind of compensation," Hogue said.
Those changes weren't made, but Murray said he still believes city departments are top-heavy with management and said he would work to reverse that as a member of the City Council.
"That's always been one of my biggest pet peeves," he said.
In District 5, which covers east Tampa, Ybor City, downtown, the port and parts of West Tampa, Murray said he feels he has a good grasp of what residents want: better street lights, safe parks and other safe public spaces. Citywide, he says, Tampa should focus more on efficiency — such as how it buys gasoline — and should apply for federal funds to install solar panels on city property.
Murray said he's getting an early start on the campaign because he's challenging an incumbent and "I know I'm going to have to go to work."
Reddick, 57, said he believes District 5 voters will recognize that he has brought the district more attention than it had received before with "major accomplishments" to his credit.
Those include pushing Mayor Bob Buckhorn's administration to dedicate the money to repair and reopen the Williams Park Pool, working to facilitate a $2.5 million renovation of the Central Court Apartments and supporting plans to build a community center on the site of the old Honky Tonk bar.
Reddick intends to run for re-election but hadn't planned to launch his campaign until next year.
Now that may change.
"Well, my day was going good until you told me," Reddick said after learning of Murray's candidacy. "Now I that I have an opponent, I'm going to meet with my campaign team and see what they have to say."