From the time Cindy Munch pushed his blocks on top of him in kindergarten, Jim Murray knew he wanted to be an architect.
Now after more than 30 years in his chosen career, Jim is stepping out of full-time employment at CSHQA—with many thousands of miles and hundreds of stories to his name.
Jim worked in both private and public companies after college, including a stint as the city architect for Jersey City, New Jersey, until the early ‘90s. He left the Garden State for the Gem State, settling in Boise in 1993 and joining CSHQA. In addition to his full-time job with the firm, Jim volunteered as a part-time firefighter and chairman of the Eagle City Design Review Board. He rose through the ranks at CSHQA from senior associate to principal, and in 2007 he was tapped to start the Denver office.
The Denver plan was to acquire and transition The Crosby Group, a data center specialist company well-known in the Denver area with an office in Littleton. After working side-by-side with Roger Crosby for more than six months, the full effects of the Great Recession started to hit businesses, and Crosby abruptly decided to close his doors – literally.
“He told me I had until the end of the day to get my things together and go,” Jim said. “I went from a 4,000-square-foot office to my car in a day.”
From there, Jim did a lot of improvising to make a name for CSHQA in a metro area with more than seven times the Treasure Valley’s population. He developed a number of business contacts, aligning one with several sales representatives for The Garland Company, a global commercial roofing company. That relationship started his work with several rural school districts in Colorado.
“I became a go-to roofing designer for schools, and we did nearly a dozen together,” Jim said. He obtained his HAAG certification for commercial roof inspections and started working on projects for more rural school districts far from Metro Denver where other firms just didn’t want to travel.
“In Colorado, you don’t get anywhere without driving at least 100 miles in a car,” Jim said. He traded his first-class status with United Airlines for the Preferred rewards program with Avis car rentals. “Some of my favorite clients are four hours away. … And I never really minded it. I always rented a car that had Bluetooth, allowing for business to continue over the trips with phone or conference calls while driving, because no one was paying me to simply sit in a car and drive there.”
Jim averaged at least 10,000 miles each year, completing nearly 30 education projects during his time in Colorado – and he ate lunch with the kids at every school he visited. Many of his projects were partially funded by Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants that he helped school districts secure.
“I’m a person who looks in the windshield and not the rearview mirror … you have to look forward and you have to say, ‘Okay, here I am now, what am I going to do, sink or swim?’” Jim said. “I would’ve loved to have been a better swimmer, but I certainly didn’t say I’m done and give up.”
As a “small fish in a big pond,” Jim has focused the Denver office business development efforts mostly in the education market, but he is hopeful the firm will grow under the leadership of his successor, Jesse Goldman. Over the past 18 months, Jim and Jesse have been working together to expand not only the number of clients, but the types of projects. Jim knows the Denver office is in good hands.
As for what he’ll do with himself once he has more time on his hands, Jim said he’ll still consult as needed, but he’s looking forward to making his own health and happiness a priority by riding his bike, playing golf, reading, and spending quality time with his wife, Sally, visiting their children in fun places west of the Rockies. If time remains, he hopes to attend culinary school courses and refine his sous chef skills.
But of course, Jim says he will miss the people he works with and the work itself.
“I am very proud and satisfied with both the project and client accomplishments,” he said. “I have really appreciated CSHQA as a quality firm, and I’m proud of what we have done together.”