senior features editor
Once he covered the big stories; now he is one of them.
As a budding journalist, now-Mayor Michael O’Connor worked for ESPN, yearning to someday come to prominence as the voice of Baltimore Orioles games. Years passed, and new jobs came and went, but fate did not open the door for this dream. There is no need to worry, though, O’Connor is doing just fine. In an ironic twist, he is now on the other end of the camera, projecting his voice with the poise and prestige of the current Mayor of Frederick.
The political realm significantly widened in 2017 for O’Connor, who was elected mayor following an eight-year term on the city’s Board of Aldermen, and a completely separate career in journalism, which he left in 2006. In this new chapter, O’Connor acts as one of only three Maryland mayors with a fully chief executive role, attending to all the affairs of the city “I often joke that I’m not always in the office, but the office is always in me,” O’Connor said.
Growing up in a Frederick of the 1970s, O’Connor witnessed the booming era of shopping malls, along with the consequences such new developments forced as downtown retail stores withered into ghost-town abandonment. In 1976, the city’s infrastructure failed to prevent a massive flood from costing millions of dollars in damages, fomenting even more public concern about the futures of its residents. “We could have been wiped out after that, but the project to build along and control the waters of Carroll Creek has helped to resolve flooding as well as our local commerce issues,” O’Connor said.
Although he cannot take full credit for the long-term success of the city, O’Connor is already trying to form an auspicious narrative for the next 20 years of Frederick’s history. “As we’ve seen with Carroll Creek, a well-crafted, strategic and articulated plan is extremely important,” O’Connor said. “This will help us in our goals to be really intentional with regard to anti-gentrification initiatives like making quality housing affordable and programs that are geared toward assisting our poorest residents more effectively.”
Since before he became Mayor, O’Connor’s political role model has been former President Barack Obama. “Through eight years in office, I’m impressed I never saw him lose his cool,” O’Connor said.
Frederick is not what it seems to outsiders of the community, who may tend to view its reputation as one of rural conservatism. In contrast, O’Connor energetically believes he lives and works in a great example of a forward-thinking American city, separate in its identity yet connected through the arts, ideals and scientific interests of national culture. “I’m proud that workers for disease research giants like AstraZeneca get to thrive in our area, and I am proud to have been the first mayor to appoint our new student policy organization, the Youth Advisory Council,” O’Connor said.