Stephanie Murti had only been at the SFPUC for three weeks when Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In less than a month, Murti went from new employee orientation to becoming Planning Section Chief of the agency’s Department Operations Center (DOC). Talk about whiplash.
Fortunately for Murti, serving in this role is not all that different from what she was hired for initially by the SFPUC. Murti is the Training and Exercise Planner for the SFPUC’s Emergency Planning and Security team. Rather than helping the SFPUC and its employees plan and respond to hypothetical emergencies, she is assisting the agency and the workforce in a very real one instead.
As Planning Section Chief, Murti is responsible for monitoring the details. A lot of details. “Planning is incredibly important because everything we do involves strategy, tactics, staffing, resources, and every detail needs to be identified and addressed,” she says. Her group is also responsible for compiling daily reports for executive leadership and other stakeholders. Updated and timely information is critical for the SFPUC to respond quickly and strategically.
Despite the demands of the position, Murti is reminded of the joys of public service and particularly notes her colleagues. “Everyone that I have worked with are impacted by what is going on right now, but they still show up and do the very best they can. It’s inspiring to work with people who are so dedicated.” Because she has been generally onsite at the DOC since March 11, she notes how she is really getting to know coworkers more on a personal level, too. “I think I have even unintentionally memorized people’s lunch preferences,” she says with a laugh.
She notes her mom is source of inspiration as well. As an Operations Manager for Child Nutrition for the San Lorenzo Unified School District, Murti’s mother drives every day from Tracy to arrive at work by 3 a.m. to bag free meals for students and their families. Murti noted the joy in her mom’s voice when after weeks of cold meals, she and her staff were able to provide hot food instead.
When Murti isn’t working on the latest Incident Action Plan (IAP), she is making spicy wontons from scratch or sewing masks for family or colleagues. For something more challenging, she recently started constructing hoodies for her dog, Carson. “Now he’s got a better wardrobe than I do!” she joked.
COVID-19 will be a threat for many months to come, something Murti acknowledges. “Emergencies like pandemics are a marathon, not a sprint.” So, what really gets her through the days? “Fantastic staff who are supportive, resilient and dedicated to see through whatever challenges face us. After all these months, I have realized just how important that is—a good attitude changes everything.”