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Barbara O'Connor

Barbara O'Connor

UI police chief, 2009-12 | Led police at UConn, UMass

It's wicked fah from Amherst, Mass., where Barbara O'Connor had spent most of her life, to Champaign-Urbana, where she was named UI police chief late in 2008.

But off she went, at age 47, ready for a new adventure.

"I arrived in Champaign at the beginning of the new year in 2009. Mr. Obama had just been elected President and I too was starting a new job halfway across the country.

"I arrived in the office my first day and (then-interim chief and future successor) Jeff Christensen opened my office door and said 'Here  you go.' I remember looking around the office and thinking the moment reminded me of the day I brought home my first child. Once you put the baby in the crib, you look at around and think: Now what do I do?

"And that’s what I thought to myself. Once I unpacked a few things, I began walking around the public safety building, introducing myself to people.

"It didn’t take me long to be accepted and I learned very quickly what a special place Illinois was and the people of Champaign-Urbana — or is it Urbana-Champaign? I guess that depends on which mayor is speaking.

"I really enjoyed my three years," says O'Connor, who'd leave in 2011 for a simialr job at UConn. "Having recently retired from public service, I can say with confidence, those three years at Illinois, although short, were the best three years of my professional career."

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