The governing board of the Steamship Authority paid tribute to retiring board member Bob O’Brien during its December meeting, recognizing him for the crucial role he played in shaping the Authority’s capital projects in Hyannis during his tenure.
Overseeing upgrades and improvements to the Authority’s fleet, terminals, vessel maintenance, and operations are just a few of O’Brien’s accomplishments. He is credited with overseeing the acquisition of the waterfront property adjacent to the Authority’s Hyannis terminal to construct a second ferry slip and a new terminal building, while dedicating a portion of the expanded terminal as a public park and expanding Hyannis’ walkway along the waterfront. He also oversaw Hyannis slip improvements, which now allow the Authority to operate the high-speed ferry from a separate slip than others used by the Authority’s passenger/vehicle ferries.
O’Brien has served 25 years on the board, the first representative for the port community of Barnstable. He was appointed in 1991 by the Barnstable Town Council after the state Legislature amended the Authority’s enabling act to expand the number of board members.
“Throughout his 25 years with the Authority, Bob has gained the respect of all of the Board members for being a voice of reason, wisdom and tolerance during good times and bad,” said Elizabeth Gladfelter, SSA board chair and Falmouth representative. “Because he has discharged his fiduciary duties so well over the years, we – the current board – have much smoother sailing ahead of us.”
O’Brien’s contributions have not gone unnoticed by the Commonwealth. Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito issued a Governor’s Citation recognizing O’Brien’s “outstanding, dedicated and distinguished public service…and his contributions to improving ferry service for the traveling public.” Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, on behalf of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Representative Tim Whelan, Representative Brian Mannal, and Representative William Strauss, issued a citation, also signed by Senator Dan Wolfe and Senator Vinnie deMacedo, congratulating O’Brien in recognition of his dedicated service to the Town of Barnstable, the Steamship Authority and the traveling public. “Our entire membership extends its very best wishes and expresses the hope for future good fortune and continued success in all endeavors.” Steamship Authority General Manager Wayne Lamson read the citations aloud and presented them to O’Brien.
Prior to his board appointment, O’Brien had served his country and his community in a distinguished career and a noteworthy life.
During World War II, O’Brien served in the US Coast Guard. He was stationed in Italy, assigned to the European Theater patrolling the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Upon his return from the War, he graduated from Boston College and served in the Coast Guard for more than 30 years. During his Coast Guard career, he commanded a patrol boat in Alaska and a 310-foot cutter out of Boston. Subsequently, O’Brien was promoted to Chief of Staff of the First Coast Guard District, which at the time extended from Maine to Delaware. He ultimately became the Coast Guard’s Chief Financial Officer, serving as its Comptroller in Washington, DC.
The Coast Guard recognized his dedication to his duty and his numerous accomplishments by including him in its Legion of Merit for his “performance of Outstanding Service.”
O’Brien’s Coast Guard experience has proved invaluable. Gladfelter says, “Bob’s expertise from his decades of service in the Coast Guard were vividly on display over the last 25 years during the transformation of the Authority’s entire fleet.”
While O’Brien has retired from the Steamship Authority’s board, he continues to serve his community, working as temporary Assistant Town Manager for Barnstable, a position he had held several times in the past.
O’Brien submitted his resignation from the Authority’s Board to the Barnstable Town Council in September 2016, effective upon the appointment of his successor.
In November of 2016, the Barnstable Town Council appointed Robert R. Jones, Barnstable’s representative to the Steamship Authority’s Port Council, to fill O’Brien’s unexpired term.