Search form

You are here

Joseph O’Brien

Former Mayor/City Councilor in Worcester, currently works for U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester

Joseph O’Brien serves his community daily, not only as a former elected official but as a paramedic for almost 20 years.

After graduating from Fordham University in 1991, with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies, Mr. O’Brien attended the paramedic program at Quinsigamond. He had become an EMT in 1990, and in 1996 he finished his paramedic certification, which consisted of coursework and fieldwork, including 500 hours of clinical practice.

He said he started the program and then he had to take some time off before completing it. The flexibility of the QCC program allowed him to be able to do that. “The paramedic program is the best in the state,” he said.

Through his career, he has met and worked with many other first responders who have attended QCC. Mr. O’Brien has been a paramedic for 18 years. For the last 13 years, he worked in the Blackstone Valley area, including Grafton, Millbury and Sutton.

“Quinsigamond as an institution plays a critical role, not just in the city, but in the region,” he said. “The school offers training and education for people serving the community in many different ways.”

He said people may attend QCC for economic reasons, or they may be new immigrants taking courses to prepare for a four-year college. “In the past it was more about specific skills, but now with the rise of college costs, QCC has focused on academics and provides an affordable opportunity for the first two years,” he said. “It is a great bridge for people financially to then go onto a four-year college.”

“One of the great things about Quinsigamond has been about meeting people where they are and helping lift them up,” he said. He said for years one of the challenges facing the college was that there was just the main campus, but now with the expansion in Southbridge and downtown, the college has been able to expand its reach and even more people can benefit.

“The college continues to contribute to the growth of the city as well as the revitalization of downtown Worcester,” Mr. O’Brien said.

He has also continued his education, earning a master’s degree in public administration in political science and government from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

He has worked in the political arena for many years. He served on the Worcester School Committee for three terms, from 2001-07. In 2006, he ran the campaign for former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. From 2009-11, he served as Mayor of Worcester, becoming the first elected mayor of the city who had not previously served on the City Council. In 2011, he decided not to run for re-election for family reasons and instead ran for City Council and served one term. He is currently working as Political and Finance Director for U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester.

He is an adjunct professor at Clark University, teaching in an MPA program and at the undergraduate level. He formerly taught State and Local Government at Becker College.

Volunteering in his community also is important to Mr. O’Brien. He has volunteered for and served on local boards for many organizations, including the YMCA, The Worcester Youth Center and the Regional Environmental Council. For the last two years, he has been a board member for the Center for Non-Violent Solutions and volunteers with the center through programs addressing conflict and youth violence in the public school.

He was named Person of the Year by Worcester Magazine in 2010 and has received various other awards from community organizations.

“We are all given great gifts, we are blessed to live where we have great opportunities and I think I have an obligation to give back and share our gifts,” he said. “It is part of being a citizen, to help others realize their own potential.”

Another way Mr. O’Brien has given of himself is by opening his home. He and his wife, Lisa, a human rights lawyer who has done work around the world, adopted twins from Ethiopia four years ago. Now age 9, he said they are doing terrific. “We have a great community in Worcester and everyone has been very supportive,” he said.

“I am honored and privileged to be a Quinsigamond graduate, I owe a great debt of gratitude for the support and introduction into the paramedic world,” he said. “It is gratifying to be named a Guardian. The skills I learned there help save peoples’ lives. I am always grateful for the things I learned and the relationships I built at Quinsigamond.”