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Hursh is Auburn Reporter's person of the year

Michael Hursh is advisor to the mayor.

Don't turn, though, his title could change. It's happened before. An average of once a year since the City of Auburn hired him in January 2007.

"I've had five titles and six offices," Hursh said.

Perhaps there's an acknowledgement among all those titles and officials that thinking up one job description for a guy who seems to be everywhere, doing everything human-services related is no stroll in the park.

"I have a few roles that are complementary to my work at City Hall, within the context of my desire to serve Auburn," Hursh said.

Indeed, those "few roles", which see him providing for and ministering to residents on behalf of the mayor, encompass all the areas that affect the daily lives of the city's residents.

For all Hursh does, The Auburn Reporter has named him its Person of the Year.

Being advisor to the mayor, he says, allows for the "weaving of administration into the responsibility of staff throughout the city," coloring even the mayor's role in the leadership of City Council and elected officials.

For several years, while the City set to work putting more of a face on human services and elevating its public perception, his role was strictly contract management. But in that time he launched South County Housing and Outreach, which provides housing for women and children coming out of domestic violence.

He credits former Mayor Chuck Booth for beginning to lay a foundation and a framework out of the general fund and for administering federal funding. As a consequence, Hursh said, Auburn became a direct recipient of HUD money and community development block grants.

The combination of the two, he said, created a human services budget that in 2012 exceeds $1 million and is a significant source of resource for all the non profits and some of the social service agencies the City depends on to get good work done and to meet the immediate needs of many of its most vulnerable, at-risk, residents.

"So, human services has come to be both. Yes, it's contractual management of the relationships that we have from a financial standpoint, but it's more than that. It's the staffing of the human services committee. It's the maintenance of the relationships between the churches and the service clubs, the school district and the nonprofit agencies. That network of five is at the core of a lot of the positive results that are achieved in this community," Hursh said.

He serves as chaplain for police and fire and the City.

He has the sort of job that can summon him any time of the day or night. He never complains.

"My life concern is the quality of life for the people who make up the community," Hursh said. "Because this is not just a community, to me Auburn is my home, Auburn is my family. It is not a thing of interruption to serve when the need is the greatest. My church is 75,000 people, and the foyer of my church is the lobby of City Hall."

Of course, he added with a laugh, caffeine helps.

"I have found that coffee is the mainstay of my life. I can depend on it, and its qualities are enhancing to my abilities," Hursh said.

Hursh is a longtime member and past president of the Auburn Noon Kiwanis Club. He enjoys an honorary membership in a number of other service clubs. He emcees a number of events during the year, including his personal favorite, the Miss Auburn Scholarship program, where he's been known to belt out a tune or two.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that a guy so busy should be hard to find. Think of him as Auburn City Hall's answer to that Heissenberg fellow and his crazy principle.

"To find Michael Hursh's desk is not the same thing as finding Michael Hursh," Mayor Pete Lewis once told a City Hall visitor looking for the mayor's advisor.

Indeed.

"I will never be a person who manages or works from behind the desk," Hursh said. "I'm a person who, because of the background that I have with my own family of origin and my extended family, is acquainted with need and with the plight of regular folks. It's probably an ongoing joke that it's very difficult to find me at my desk."

Faith, Hursh said, is the foundation of everything he does. He was a pastor for 10 years before his hiring by the City of Auburn.

"I've said this in different ways, and the best way I know to say it is that we all have a calling, and I have found a freedom of the expression of that calling in this place of life, more so than anything prior," Hursh said. "There's a willingness for the gospel work to be outside of the four walls and out in the marketplace, and I think that's an interesting picture: Christ walking in the marketplace. What does that look like? How is life affected. And how do we approach transformation for Auburn as a community?"

Hursh grew up in Auburn, raised by a single mother and a sister 13 years his senior.

"They sacrificed so much for me," Hursh said.

He is a single father to Emma, who turns 5 at the end of February, and is "the delight of my life."

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