November 20, 2013

O'Brien To Step Down As Worcester City Manager

Coutesty of the Office of the City Manager
Michael O'Brien at his desk in Worcester City Hall.

Michael O'Brien will step down Jan. 5 after a decade as Worcester's top appointed official to take a position as a real estate management executive.

O'Brien, 47, announced his resignation as city manager Wednesday in a three-page letter to Mayor Joseph Petty.

"I feel strongly that I am leaving at a good time in our city's history - where we have hit a positive stride, that leaders in all positions are aligned to advanced the cause of our community as a whole, and that city government is in strong financial and operational strengths," O'Brien wrote.

He said one of the toughest - but most important - parts of being city manager has been reigning in spending by reducing the size of the city workforce, eliminating non-vital services, controlling health care costs and reforming retiree's benefits.

"I also carry the memories of all those I had to lay off," O'Brien wrote. "The devastation they had in their eyes, and the cracking of their voices as they asked if there were any alternatives, still breaks my heart when I think of them and I pray they made it through OK."

O'Brien also took credit for civic accomplishments such as the erection of the memorial to Vietnam veterans at Green Hill Park.

"Though one of the last of our states to build a Vietnam Memorial - it is by far the best and the most fitting tribute to these veterans and their families," he wrote.

O'Brien's letter also paid tribute to the "on the job" deaths of the six firefighters in the 1999 Cold Storage Warehouse fire, as well as the deaths during his tenure of parks and recreation employee James Mitchell and firefighter Jon Davies during his tenure as city manager.

In his new position, O'Brien will assist Boston-based Winn Cos. with leadership succession planning. O'Brien said he, his wife and his two daughters will continue to live in Worcester.

"In the final analysis, I guess my instincts, assisted by the wisdom and care of my wife, told me it is time to move on," he said.

Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Tim Murray said he's sad to see his 15-year working relationship with O'Brien come to an end.

"I am deeply disappointed that we will no longer have this high-quality, hard-working CEO leading the city," Murray said in a statement. "Mike's work ethic, energy and enthusiasm will be missed by the city."

Mayor Joseph Petty said he plans to work with the City Council over the coming weeks to put plans in place for maintaining critical city government operations.

"While I'm certainly happy for Mike and his family [and] understand and respect his decision this decision that this is the right move for them, I'm equally sad to see such a tireless and effective leader leave public service," Petty said in a statement.

State Sen. Michael Moore of Millbury lauded O'Brien for his love and dedication to the city.

"He exemplifies what it means to be a true public servant," Moore said.

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