SAYREVILLE – For his two decades of service to the borough, Sayreville’s longest-tenured mayor has been recognized by the New Jersey Legislature.
A resolution from the New Jersey Legislature honoring former Mayor Kennedy O’Brien was presented at a Borough Council meeting on March 9. The resolution was given to O’Brien by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex), who represent Sayreville’s legislative district.
O’Brien served five four-year terms as mayor from 2000-19, the most in the borough’s history. In addition to his 20 years of mayoral service, he was appointed to the Borough Council in 1995 and was elected to a three-year term the following year for a total of 25 years on Sayreville’s governing body.
For the 2019 mayoral race, O’Brien did not seek re-election after his wife Janice was diagnosed with cancer. He was succeeded by Victoria Kilpatrick.
At the meeting, Coughlin spoke highly of O’Brien’s decades to Sayreville.
“We’re in different parties, but that has never stopped you from being a friend. It was easy to get the [recognition] resolution passed 120-to-nothing because everybody recognizes the kind of person you are and the kind of work that you have done for the people of Sayreville. Going through your resume and having had the chance to serve with you over the course of the last decade, I’ve come to see the kind of commitment that you have, the kind of dedication to the people of Sayreville and a willingness to work across the aisle because what has always been paramount to you is getting work done, getting the job done. That is reflected in a resolution.
“The truth of the matter is [the resolution] does capture those those things,” the Coughlin continued. “You truly are a man of the people of Sayreville, from your involvement as a Weeblo leader to being involved in the anti-dumping campaign, things that don’t always get a lot of press attention but matter to the people who you impact. I think that’s why in the town where the politics are back and forth and you served with many Democrats, you were a fixture. You earned it because you cared about people, it came through and, as a result, they rewarded you by letting you be their leader until you decided what was best for you and for your family.
“We’re all going to miss you personally and professionally. I know we’ll still continue to talk on a regular basis as we have since you’ve been gone. On behalf of myself and Senator [Joseph] Vitale, we appreciate all that you have done, the great work you have done in moving Sayreville along. It is a wonderful community. [O’Brien] moved here from Metuchen, so he’s a social climber, but he found a home, he found people who he genuinely cared about, he made it his work to make sure that they were better off because of him and he succeeded. Congratulations on your long service.”
Lopez echoed Coughlin’s comments and discussed her relationship with O’Brien.
“I just completed my first term as assemblywoman and I remember back in 2017 when you called me and said, ‘Assemblywoman Lopez, I would love to meet you and talk to you. Let’s have dinner,'” she said. “I spent probably two hours with you and we did not talk politics. We talked about life.
“I want you know that I’m never going to forget our relationship personally and professionally,” Lopez said. “Thank you for your 20-plus years of service to the great town of Sayreville. I know that you, in your heart, are going to leave a void, but we have a wonderful new mayor and I know that your love in your heart is to take care of your wife and to take care of your children. Please also take care of yourself because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family.”
“It’s always, for me, very humbling,” O’Brien said. “What you [Lopez] don’t know is I didn’t meet you when you were an assemblywoman, I met you when you were the director of PRAHD – the Puerto Rican Association of Human Development – and our assemblywoman was the director for many years. I remember she said, ‘Kennedy, you’ve got to come, we’re having our annual night. I asked a friend of mine, [South River] Mayor [John] Krenzel, if he’d like to come with me and he said, ‘PRAHD? Absolutely’. You have impacted positively more lives than you will ever know, your heart is gold all and we really appreciate your work here in Sayreville.
“As I say many times, Craig Coughlin and Yvonne Lopez are friends of Sayreville and they’re friends of mine and they’re friends of yours,” O’Brien continued. “Thank you one and all. It has been my humbling honor and my life’s pleasure to have been the mayor here. So now Janice and I will age into the sunset, gracefully I hope.”