Kevin O’Connor started his career differently than most. Few products of Washington & Lee University learned to make life and death decisions while trying to subdue out of control fires, pulling victims from horrific accidents and providing life-saving emergency medical care.
A biopic in The Hill newspaper entitled “Ex Fire Fighter Still Answering the Call” traces O’Connor’s career from a young fire fighter to an effective advocate at the local and state levels, to his ultimate rise in becoming one of organized labor’s most effective and respected federal lobbyists and political strategists in Washington, DC.
Throughout his career—in all capacities—being a participant was never enough. Seizing opportunities and applying leadership has been the hallmark of Kevin’s life and professional career. His rapid rise in elected and appointed positions within the International Association of Fire Fighters and the broader labor community created opportunities to address issues and improve the lives and livelihoods or those he represented.
He became the first elected trustee in the history of Baltimore County to chair the $2 billion dollar Employee’s Retirement System increasing the solvency of the fund and improving benefits. Chairing health care negotiations for all county employees, O’Connor successfully bargained the county’s first dental and optical and Rx coverage for its 10,000 plus employees.
In a four year period, a conservative Republican County Executive tapped Kevin to serve on the Charter Review Commission and four years later the liberal Democratic Governor-elect asked had chair the Public Safety portion of his transition team.
Those outside labor recognized Kevin’s ability to evaluate the economic and political landscape and bring value to an enterprise. Early in his career, he was recruited to as a Director of a small regional bank that went public and enjoyed a period of extensive growth. For many years he has served on the board of a 12 hospital, multi-billion dollar medical system that continues to expand its market share and footprint on providing care in to all regions of Maryland.
Bi-partisanship and fashioning friendships and alliances with leaders and operatives across the entire political spectrum has enabled Kevin to succeed where others have failed. Under his leadership, the International Association of Fire Fighter’s Governmental and Public Policy Divisions has enjoyed tremendous success in passing legislation during periods of GOP and Democratic control of Congress and with presidents of both Parties in the White House.
The IAFF’s federal political action committee, FIREPAC, has grown to $6 million dollars per cycle, a 600% increase during O’Connor’s stewardship.
In 2004, Presidential nominee, John Kerry, appointed Kevin to serve on the Party’s 15 member Platform Drafting Committee to transform the candidate and Party’s vision and priorities into a document that all Democrats could embrace.
His colleagues within the fire service elected Kevin to chair the National Advisory Council of the Congressional Fire Service Institute—the first and only union official to hold the post and presented him with the fire service’s highest honor— the Mason Langford Lifetime Leadership Award in 2010
From negotiating complicated labor contracts; to lobbying before legislative, executive and regulatory bodies at all levels of government; to assisting businesses grow and prosper and structuring strategic and grassroots and advocacy campaigns, Kevin brings the same passion, loyalty and commitment to his clients that he demonstrated fighting fires and saving lives so many years ago.
Kevin’s three word mantra drives every aspect of life: Make a difference.