A Driving Interest

Leading a multifaceted csecurity business

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

ada_trafficIn 2000, when Linda and Jim Murphy bought out their partner in the predecessor of their company ADA Traffic Control Ltd., they had two employees: their son, Pat, and one of his friends. Today the company consists of four divisions and 250 employees, 100 of whom work year-round.

It’s not easy to define Jim Murphy’s business. The corporate entity’s name, ADA Traffic Control Ltd., barely comes close to describing the four divisions it comprises: flagging and traffic control, investigations, security, and sales and rentals.

Jim and his wife, Linda, have law enforcement backgrounds — tailor-made for detective work. After Jim, a North Troy native, graduated from high school in 1958, he worked for five years at the Weyerhaeuser mill there before moving to Butterfield Tap & Die in Derby Line. In 1968, approached by town officials, he agreed to become village police officer in North Troy, a part-time position, and in 1970 was elected constable for the town of Troy.

That’s when he met Linda St. Pierre, a Highgate Center native. She and Jim married in 1972, the year he left his job at Butterfield to pursue law enforcement full time. He attended the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford and was subsequently named full-time chief deputy.

In addition to the police academy, over the course of his work, Jim has studied at the University of Southern California, the FBI Academy, Babson College, and Champlain College.

The Murphys lived in North Troy, and Linda worked off and on in the county jail as a guard until she, too, became a deputy sheriff in 1974. Their son, Patrick (Pat), was born in 1976, the same year Gov. Richard Snelling appointed Jim to fill out the retiring sheriff’s term. When the previous sheriff’s wife retired from her position as court officer, Linda took that job and held it until 1985, when she decided to study hairdressing in Burlington for two years.

Following a familiar path for law enforcement officers, Jim earned his private investigator’s license in 1995, and when he retired in 1996, he joined Continental Detective Agency, a Bridgewater operation run by Edward Lucas. Lucas changed the company’s name to Associated Detective Agency about the time Jim joined the company.

In 1997, traffic control and flagging were added to the offerings, and the next year Jim became a partner in the firm, which was incorporated as ADA Traffic Control Ltd. In 2000, Jim and Linda bought out Lucas’s share.

“We started with two people out of my garage,” Jim says, “and then I went out and started beating the bushes.” Those two people were Pat and one of his friends, the company’s first two flaggers. By 2007, Pat was a member of the management team in order to expand the investigations and security side of the business.

Now Pat is executive vice president and general manager, and the directors of ADA’s four divisions report to him. He divides his time between ADA and the Burlington Fire Department, where he’s worked for 20 years and is a battalion chief.

“Firefighting was an interest right from day one,” he says. “I was 16 years old when I got my license and immediately got on the Newport Fire Department as a full-time member,” says Patrick. “I had a pager with me, and as the pager would go off, the teachers would let me go.” A few jealous classmates followed his example.

After graduation in 1994, he traveled for a couple of years before entering the four-year firefighting program at New Hampshire Community Technical College in Laconia. He volunteered with the Laconia Fire Department and was eventually hired to work full time. After graduation, having applied to departments all over New England, he landed a job in Burlington.

The company employs about 250 people in summer and maintains an average of 100 people all winter long. Employees work in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York — it’s the largest traffic control company in New England. Asked what he likes best about the job, Pat says, “I get to create policy that literally changes people’s lives!”

He’s referring to last year when he devised a plan to raise flagger pay from $11 to $16 an hour, “a well-deserved increase for this industry,” he says.

“Pat is unbelievable! He’s a full-time firefighter and then essentially runs the day-to-day business of this operation,” says Jeff LaBonte, a client advisor with Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group, who handles ADA’s commercial and property insurance.”

“We’re a 24-hour company,” says Heather Cruickshank, the business manager, who, with Pat and company dispatchers, is responsible for fielding phone calls that might come as early as 3 a.m. “The PR piece of it is challenging because of the industry we’re in,” she says, referring to traffic control. “The phone calls start with the morning commute and end with the evening commute.”

In addition to flagging services for companies like phone and electric companies that do roadside work, ADA provides traffic control and all the accoutrements to major companies doing construction work in the four states it serves. Jim generally oversees that department.

The sales and rentals division, run by Andy Karwocki out of Bow, New Hampshire, deals with the accoutrements. “I sell and rent all the message boards you see on the highways — the little signs,” he says, “then the arrow boards that tell you when there’s a lane closed, the radar boards that tell you when you’re going too fast, and diesel and solar light towers. Then there’s cones, barrels, barricades, pretty much all of the stuff that has to do with traffic control.

“I run the whole show!” he adds with a hearty laugh. “I sell it; I order it; it comes in; I deliver it.” He’s on the road by 4:30 or 5 every morning — usually an easy 10- to 12-hour day, he says. “I deliver all the equipment, service it, and if there’s any breakdowns, I go and fix it.”

In charge of security and investigations is Bryan Mathieu, a contemporary of Pat’s, who’s known the family for years. Following graduation from Mount Mansfield Union High School, he served three years in the National Guard and worked odd jobs before joining the company.

Mathieu is a member of ASIS International, an organization for security professionals. Initially he shadowed Pat and Jim to “learn the tricks of the trade,” he says. ADA’s uniformed security guards and investigators are licensed in Vermont and New Hampshire

Mathieu’s job involves hiring and retaining employees, assigning jobs, and visiting and meeting with potential contracts on the security side that require unarmed security services. Customers might be malls, factories, banks, supermarkets, schools, construction projects, wind tower sites, or concerts. “I travel all over the state, and we’re venturing into New Hampshire.” The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Heading up the private investigations bureau is Bill Goggins, a Lake George, New York, native whose 32 years of law enforcement experience includes the U.S. Army Military Police, the Burlington Police Department, and 27 years with the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, the last 17 as director of education, licensing, and enforcement. “A lot of people don’t realize that investigators with liquor control are fully certified law enforcement officers,” he says.

Goggins’s sector offers professional investigation services to all of Vermont, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, where the Murphys winter. Services can include the likes of background checks, workers’ compensation, divorce and child-custody cases, missing persons, process serving, and surveillance of all types, using the latest technology.

“One thing about this type of business is you’ve got to establish a clientele base,” says Peter Barton, the owner of Barton Agency & Backgrounds Plus in Wilmington, a former law enforcement officer who’s known Jim since the early days. The two of them have shared investigations and information.

“Reputation is very, very important,” says Barton. “Jim is very capable; very focused on what needs to be done. He’s got a good sense of humor, he’s thorough, and he wants things done right. Did he tell you he is a past president of the Vermont Association of Investigators and Security Services? That’s quite an honor.”

He was also president of the 27,000-member National Sheriffs’ Association and of the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association.

LaBonte at Hickok & Boardman echoes Barton’s praise. “Jim’s just a real straight-shooter — a super nice guy who’s very professional.”

By 2014, Linda had left her job as a hairdresser with a local funeral home to go to work with Jim. The Murphys closed the Bridgewater office and moved the center of operations to Colchester, near Pat’s home, to be closer to his twin boys, Addison and Bradyn.

To avoid a daily, two-hour commute from North Troy, for the first month the Murphys stayed with Pat when they needed to be overnight. “I said, ‘This is ridiculous; we need our own place!’” says Linda. They still call North Troy home, but they have a summer place in Colchester.

In his spare time, Jim plays golf whenever he can, mostly in South Carolina, he says, and watches his grandsons play baseball. “I was a basketball official, refereed for 44 years in New Hampshire and Vermont and in Canada. And I umpired baseball for 25 years.” He also played semipro ball in Canada for 10 years in a border league.

According to Linda, she does “anything they want me to do. I never learned bookkeeping or anything like that, so whatever else I can do to help the girls.” She works usually four to six hours a day, “and I even get lucky enough to have to go over and get my grandsons at school.” Her daughter, Penny Cargill, also works for the company.

Linda says she credits Jim totally for the way the business has thrived. “I play some part, but so many times I told him to shut it down because we were having such a hard time getting the business off the ground, especially when Ed Lucas died. We hit rock bottom — so many bills! And we assumed them and it took almost everything we owned.

“Jim likes extreme challenges, I guess, because he’s the one to be credited that it’s here today. He worked hard then and is still working just as hard today.” •