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By D.G. Martin D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit unctv.org/ncbookwatch.

Who’s cleaning up for the convention company coming?

By D.G. Martin Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm

“Working with a bunch of orthopedic surgeons.”

This was Dr. Dan Murrey’s answer to my question about why he thought he could handle a task that seems so unmanageable.

Murrey is the executive director of Charlotte’s host committee for the National Democratic National Convention in early September. He manages an effort to raise $36 million, organize 10,000 volunteers, and make thousands of delegates, media, and other visitors happy with their experience in Charlotte.

He has to work with a host of politicians and others with oversized egos, short tempers, and an expectation of getting their ways.

It seems an impossible task. So does his regular job as CEO of a large orthopedic surgical practice. If he can handle the high egos of orthopedic surgeons and make them happy, maybe he can handle the host committee job too.

When he talked to a group of fellow Davidson alumni at a recent reunion weekend, his self-confidence and enthusiasm for the task made me a believer.

Murrey’s host committee is distinct from the Democratic Party’s national convention committee, which plans and oversees the actual running of the convention.

“They plan the ‘wedding,’” Murrey says, “and we pay for it.”

Murrey has had to make some personal adjustments to his new job. As CEO of an established medical practice, “When I needed a phone, I’d just say ‘I need a phone’ and it would appear. But running a convention is like a start-up business. If I say ‘I need a phone,’ nobody automatically does anything. Running and preparing for a convention is like changing the wheels of a bus going down an interstate at 80 miles an hour.”

So why would he want to jump into this job? Why would Charlotte want to disrupt its citizens’ lives and fill its city with partisan politicians from one side when the city, like the country, is divided down the middle in a mean-spirited contest for control?

Murrey can tick off the reasons.

North Carolina has never hosted a major party political convention. The last one held in the Carolinas was in 1860 in Charleston.

Selecting one of the two nominees for the most important leadership position in the world is important business. So the eyes of the nation and the world will be on Charlotte and North Carolina.

Murrey figures that the value to the Charlotte and North Carolina communities of the resulting “media exposure” will exceed $500 million.

In addition he estimates that there will be $200 million in immediate economic impact from the visitors’ spending and the service activities that will support them.

According to Murrey, approximately 35,000 people will come to Charlotte for the convention. Although other events have brought more people to town (National Rifle Association convention, 80,000; CIAA basketball tournament, 200,000), the composition of the delegates to the convention and the accompanying visitors makes these 35,000 people extraordinarily valuable. The delegates will be mayors, legislators, and many other local leaders. In addition there will be the President, the Vice President, and a large representation from the U.S. Congress. There will be 350 diplomats from all over the world and, says Murrey, an entire host of other influential “thought leaders.”

Countless media, about half of them international, are coming and, says Murrey, “They will have to find something to write about.”

The eyes of the world will be on Charlotte. What will they see?

Murrey points to hundreds of ongoing activities his committee and others are planning to make sure the world sees Charlotte at its best.

Murrey smiles and says quietly, even sternly, with the confidence of an orthopedic surgeon, “We’ve got company coming to town so we had better clean it up.”

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