MANCHESTER, NH — It was a busy day for Jim O’Connell. He had two big appointments on his calendar. Up before the sun, O’Connell headed to Concord for an 8 a.m. appointment, 27 years in the making: He became a U.S. citizen.
“It was good fortune that it was able to happen on the last possible day of filing,” said O’Connell, a reference to the second thing on his to-do list Friday: Becoming a candidate for Manchester Board of School Committee at-large representative.
“I’ve lived here for 27 years and a lot of my life was spent in the civilian security business, so the process for citizenship has been elongated,” says O’Connell. That, and the fact that he’s lived in several other countries and done business in places “that aren’t usual tourist destinations.”
The date of his naturalization ceremony was up in the air, and he thought it would not come to pass until the fall. He even asked if he could perhaps attend a ceremony in Boston to expedite the process, but he was told he had to wait for a break in the New Hampshire schedule.
Chalk it up to the luck of the Irish, but a month ago O’Connell got a call that his naturalization ceremony was scheduled for July 19. When he realized it was the same day as Manchester’s municipal election filing deadline, O’Connell took it as a positive sign.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” says O’Connell in his Irish brogue, which has become familiar to the ears of those who know him from his activism with Hillside’s Parent Teacher Organization, his presence during public comment at Board of School Committee meetings, and his public access TV show, “Education Matters.”
O’Connell says it means a lot to him to have this opportunity to run for office as a U.S. citizen.
“I’m a great believer in the power of education to elevate and change lives,” O’Connell says. “The fact that I would be a citizen of the U.S and immediately be able to partake in democracy is a source of great pleasure and satisfaction, and if I’m privileged and honored enough to be elected, I’ll be beaming ear to ear.”
And no doubt, his Irish eyes will be smiling.