When asked to be program director for New York state Boys State, Dave O’Brien made one request back.
“I said we could do a lot more with it,’’ he said. “After being involved with it I had seen where we could offer a lot more.’’
O’Brien, 73, of Waterville, ran Boys State since the mid-1980s until retiring this year. With the week-long program at SUNY Morrisville unable to take place in June due to the coronavirus, O’Brien said it was a good time to step down and let the new director have a whole year to plan for 2021.
Boys State, done in 49 U.S. states, brings together boys who will be entering their senior year of high school. They spend a week in an atmosphere that combines government and military styles of life, learning to work in teams and putting together a government.
Boys State is sponsored by American Legion posts and the national Legion organization, with all expenses paid for the week. The experience serves as an introduction to boys considering careers in the military and/or government.
O’Brien became involved in 1980 after two successful seasons as head football coach at Waterville High School. The year before the school had its first non-losing football season and then in 1980 won the championship.
Two of his players on the 1980 team - Andrew Savage and Larry Gray - attended Boys State and told their coach about the impact it made on them. In 1981 O’Brien spent the week at Boys State as a city counselor.
Boys State follows a government plan of 10 counties, each with three cities. On the federal level there are two parties.
During the week boys elect leaders for their cities, counties, party and country. Along the way they develop platforms on issues and hold conventions.
After two years working with a city, O’Brien moved up to supervisor a county as counselor. During his time with Boys State, he made a friend with a fellow New York Jets fan.
“He became program director and asked me to take over the sports program,’’ O’Brien said. “He knew I was a…