Francis W. O’Brien, chairman of the Norfolk County Commissioners, announced Jan. 29 that he will not be seeking another term serving Norfolk County as one of its three county commissioners.
Addressing a crowded room filled with his family, Norfolk County elected officials and county department heads, O’Brien announced his decision to not seek re-election later this year and reflected on his lifetime of public service with gratitude.
“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve my hometown of Dedham and the communities of Norfolk County,” O’Brien said. “I’m very proud of our investments at the Norfolk County Agricultural High School, in our courthouses, and in all the County programs and services relied upon by Norfolk County residents and communities. Public service is about helping people, and I’ve always believed in doing just that.”
Voters will elect two Norfolk County commissioners this fall, with one of the seats now being vacated by O’Brien. The other seat on the ballot this fall is held by current commissioner and former Quincy city clerk Joseph Shea. Shea, a Quincy resident, is seeking re-election this fall. The other seat is held by Milton Democrat Peter Collins. Collins is not up for re-election this fall.
County commissioners must be from separate municipalities in Norfolk County, meaning two (or three) commissioners cannot hail from the same city or town. So, if a Quincy resident were to run for county commissioner this fall, he or she would be running against Shea, not for the open seat being vacated by O’Brien.
A lifelong Dedham resident, O’Brien was appointed as a Norfolk County commissioner in 2002. He was elected to his first four-year term in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Earlier this month he was unanimously elected by his colleagues to chair the county’s elected executive body for his 12th consecutive one-year term.
Shea noted that he first met O’Brien more than 40 years ago when they worked together for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
“Fran O’Brien is a great colleague, a true gentleman and a class act,” added Shea. “His lifetime of public service, as we know now through his work as a county commissioner, has always been about helping the little guy, and I’m going to miss working with him.”
“Commissioner O’Brien has been a friend and role model since I was first elected,” said State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), “He exemplifies the true meaning of a public servant with his more than 60 years of service to our town, county and Commonwealth. He leaves a legacy of making a difference and always helping those in need. I wish him continued happiness in his retirement.”
Norfolk County Clerk of Courts Walter Timilty described O’Brien as a “lifelong friend and partner in public service who always keeps his focus on helping those most in need in his communities.”
Timilty added that he looks forward to continue working with O’Brien as the commissioner serves out the remainder of his term.
A graduate of Dedham High School (’49) and a United States Navy veteran, O’Brien was a Dedham firefighter for 12 years. He later served as legislative liaison for the MBTA for 23 years. O’Brien served as a member of the Dedham Board of Selectmen for 13 years, including 6 as chairman. He has also served as a member of the Dedham Charter Commission and the Board of Assessors.
O’Brien says that one of his greatest honors was having the Selectmen’s Hearing/Meeting Room at Dedham Town Hall dedicated in his name in 2002. He remains a fixture in the Dedham community as a member of the Dedham High School Sports Hall of Fame and as a strong supporter of youth and adult sports in the community. He is active in Dedham High School and Pop Warner football, Dedham Youth Hockey, Dedham Little League, and the Dedham Men’s Softball League.
O’Brien is also a lifetime member of American Legion Post 18 and Lodge 10 of the Boston Elks.
His term as a Norfolk County Commissioner expires in early January 2021.