Remembering Mike O’Brien

We’re saddened to hear that Councillor Mike O’Brien has passed away. Mike was always a thoroughly decent man, and his presence on the council will be missed.

Mark Templeton, the former Senior Press Officer at Medway Council, shares his memories of his friend:

Mike O’Brien was a truly wonderful man. Yes, that’s the sort of thing you always hear at these sad and difficult times but he really was.

On my first day at work at Medway Council he made a bee-line for me – and hardly a day went past in the two years I was there that we didn’t talk.

Mike loved his work with the media and he always believed he should be held to account being in such a high-profile role. He never wanted to hide or dodge the tough questions, in fact he wanted to face those difficult times head-on because he knew being a politician meant taking the rough with the smooth.

He thrived on his cabinet education post. He wanted to make a difference to the young people of Medway and he did. Many children will have seen him at their school. When we used to go to schools for media interviews he would always spend time – away from the media glare – talking to pupils about their hopes and aspirations.

Whatever subject we were talking about he always turned it back to his family. He was a proud family man, forever talking to me about wife Sheila, his children and, more than anything else, his grandchildren who he doted on.

There was nothing unusual about Mike texting me at all hours of the day if he had something on his mind. 5.30 in the morning ahead of a live radio interview would be his favourite time to text – I once made the mistake of telling him I got up early and from then on I was fair game to him.

One Sunday afternoon, a text message alert flashed up from Mike. My first thought was what’s the problem? It read: “That was a fantastic goal by Rooney”. From then on in, hardly a match passed when we didn’t comment on it either by text or through social media, which he also loved.

Mike stood out for me as a politician with his integrity and desire to be completely transparent and the fact he truly  had young people at his heart. He wanted them to do well and was always telling them how important education was to their future. But it was as a family man I admired him most because of that smile he had every time he talked about them.

I last saw him six months ago at my leaving do when he came with wife Sheila. I would have thought there was something wrong if he had not asked me for that selfie which he put up on social media. We kept in touch after I left and  although I’ve lost friends through this awful illness before, he’s the one that never once lost that smile.

Myself and a colleague had a nickname for him. We called him Granddad Mike. That was because he wasn’t just a work colleague to us, he felt like a member of our family.

I never told him that nickname. I wish I had now. He’d have loved it.

 

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