• Officials Dedicate Road To Late County Administrator

    Thursday, June 07, 2018

    HARRISONBURG — A project Bill O’Brien helped start now bears his name.
    About 60 Valley officials gathered in a field off Stone Spring Road on Wednesday to dedicate a portion of the southeast connector to the former county administrator.
    O’Brien was the second person to hold the post and served from 1977 to 2003. He died in February.
    In November, the Board of Supervisors voted to designate the road from the Harrisonburg limits to U.S. 33 east of the city as the William G. O’Brien Memorial Highway.
    Supervisor Mike Breeden said O’Brien had a “great impact” on Rockingham County. In O’Brien’s time, the county increased from a handful of employees to more than 400, Breeden said.
    O’Brien also provided “strong leadership” through several challenges, such as an annexation battle with Harrisonburg, four major floods and two Avian flu outbreaks, Breeden said.
    “Bill’s steady leadership and his ability to take charge when necessary while maintaining the status quo when appropriate helped guide the county in that period,” he said.
    That section of Stone Spring Road, part of the southeast connector, was chosen because of O’Brien’s work with Rockingham Memorial Hospital to plan its move to the county. Carter Melton, RMH’s former president, said O’Brien played an integral part in infrastructure planning.
    “We needed someone that got up every morning and said, ‘What can I do to make this roadway a reality?’” Melton said.
    Don Komara, residency administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Harrisonburg Office, said O’Brien made him feel welcome from his first day in 1992.
    “Bill and I thought, and I continue to think, that Rockingham County and the Harrisonburg area is the best place to live and work in the state of Virginia,” Komara said.
    Komara said Stone Spring Road is the first county road to be honored under VDOT’s Memorial Highway Designation program.
    “I think this gives a true indication of how important a role Bill played in this project and Rockingham County,” he said.
    During the ceremony, Supervisor Bill Kyger announced that the county will form a committee to create a pocket park named for O’Brien. Kyger said the committee will consist of the Board of Supervisors, charitable organizations and business leaders and be led by O’Brien’s son, Kyle. Kyle O’Brien, Broadway’s town manager, said the dedication would have “meant the world” to his father.
    Bill O’Brien’s wife, Jeanie, said it is an appropriate honor.
    “We don’t need a sign to remember the man we all loved,” she said. “But I’m so glad the signs are there because it would have pleased Bill that he was remembered for his 26 years of wonderful service to this great county.
    “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Bill squeezed a lot of life in his 73 years.”

    Kara (left) and Jeanie O’Brien, the daughter and widow of Bill O’Brien, unveil a sign Wednesday marking Stone Spring Road in his honor. The late county administrator, who served from 1977 to 2003, died in February.

    Rockingham County Supervisor Bill Kyger speaks at a ceremony dedicating a section of Stone Spring Road to former Rockingham County Administrator Bill O’Brien on Wednesday. Kyger announced that the county will form a committee to create a pocket park named for O’Brien.
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