For 10 months after announcing himself as the first candidate in the running for the Jefferson Parish Council this October, West Bank businessman Michael O’Brien kept a relatively low profile.
That’s about to change, as he formally kicks off his campaign to challenge incumbent District 2 Councilman Paul Johnston with an event on Tuesday.
O’Brien, a River Ridge resident, first informed the community in July that he’d run for the seat Johnston has held since 2012 by putting up a billboard in Elmwood on Jefferson Highway. But it wasn’t until Friday that O’Brien sent out a news release to the media with the details of his campaign launch event, which will be on Tuesday morning from 7:30 to 9 at The Four Columns, 3711 West Bank Expressway.
O’Brien on Friday said he announced himself as a candidate unusually early — about 15 months before the Oct. 24 election — in part because he felt it would boost his name recognition.
“My initial billboard was an opportunity to get my name out there,” said O’Brien, the president of a shipping container firm in Avondale.
O’Brien in 2011 ran for the Parish Council’s 1st District seat, whose boundaries are entirely on the West Bank. He lost to incumbent Councilman Ricky Templet by a vote of 8,712 to 5,591, or a margin of 60.9 percent to 39.1.
O’Brien has since moved into District 2, which includes communities on both sides of the Mississippi River such as Harahan, River Ridge, Avondale and Marrero. In Friday’s news release, O’Brien said if elected to the council he’d offer a business acumen that would help the parish avoid running over budget on projects such as the performing arts center that is about to open in Metairie, whose price tag was twice what was expected.
He also vowed to provide a regular audience to his constituents in the form of monthly town hall meetings he’d bill as “Late Nights with Michael O’Brien.”
The last campaign finance report O’Brien filed on Dec. 31 said he had almost $45,700 on hand. However, on Friday, O’Brien said he had personally loaned a total of about $60,000 to his campaign, approximately half of which was left after spending money on media materials supporting his candidacy.
The last report available for Johnston, 66, a Republican, said he had almost $189,100 in his campaign finance account.
O’Brien, also a Republican, is the son of Michael D. O’Brien, who once managed campaigns for the late Harry Lee, the longtime Jefferson Parish sheriff. The younger O’Brien, 38, doesn’t mention that fact when campaigning because he said he wants to win support on his own merits.
“I’m not ashamed of it,” O’Brien — who is married and has two children — said of his father’s former job. “But I am my own man.”