“Sparks is the only home I’ve ever known. I like the homeliness of Sparks; it’s a very warm city and we offer such personalized service. It’s a great town to raise kids in. It’s almost like a little Mayberry,” said O’Connell, referring to the small, friendly town in the classic TV series “The Andy Griffith Show.”
O’Connell, 52, is a third-generation Sparks resident who has seen the city grow and is familiar with its strengths and struggles. Now, he’s striving to take that familiarity and experience to Sparks City Hall. Today, O’Connell is announcing that he is running for Sparks City Council.
O’Connell is running for the Ward 1 seat on the Sparks City Council — the seat vacated by John Mayer, who reaches his term limit this year.
If successful, O’Connell would follow a career path left by his father, Lloyd. The senior O’Connell served on the Sparks City Council from 1990 to 1991, after he was appointed when Orin Alexander became the acting mayor. Lloyd O’Connell was active in the community and when he died on Feb. 3, 2006, he was mourned by the city.
“Lloyd was a long-time Sparks resident who was well liked and respected by many,” Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said at the time. “He was a true champion of city causes and will be missed by us all.”
Now Roy O’Connell, who owns a local business now that he is retired from the police force, hopes to continue to serve the public by supporting the city’s positive aspects, such as public safety and parks and recreation, and improving other aspects, such as traffic, economic development and measured growth.
“Part of it is, I’m following in my dad’s footsteps,” O’Connell said. “Serving the city was really rewarding for him. I want to make sure Sparks goes in the right direction, and make sure growth is covered by our infrastructure. I was taught you can’t sit back and complain, you need to step up and be involved in finding a solution.”
O’Connell is co-owner of Pursuit of Excellence Driving Academy, LLC — a DMV-certified driver safety course for teens — as well as O’Connell/Tallent Sign Service.
He and his wife, Diane, live next to Roy’s parents in the home where he, his two older brothers and two older sisters grew up. The O’Connells have three children and will soon become grandparents for the fourth time.
O’Connell graduated from Sparks High School in 1974, and has taken various college courses through his work at the Sparks Police Department.
In his more than 26 years working for the Sparks Police Department, O’Connell has experience as a field traffic officer, in the K-9 unit, SWAT, honor guard, detectives, motorcycle traffic patrol and the Major Accident Investigation Team.
O’Connell was named “Police Officer of the Year” in 1985 for Bravery, Lifesaving and Heroism, and the Police Officer of the Year in 1997 for Outstanding Service to the Community.
His experience in serving the community includes coaching and managing youth sports, as well as helping to build and fund sports field reconstruction.
O’Connell is the assistant coach for the Sparks High School baseball team, and he has coached Babe Ruth and Little League.
Last February, O’Connell coordinated a massive community effort to organize the “Every 15 Minutes” mock car crash and student education effort at Sparks High School about the deadly effects of drunken driving.
O’Connell portrayed Santa Claus for the Shop with a Cop, Sparks Police Department’s children’s Christmas party, SPD’s Senior Phone Patrol lunch, and for the O’Brien Middle School Christmas party. And O’Connell donated time to the Sparks Heritage Foundation to build display cabinets for the Sparks Heritage Museum. He also coordinated three fund-raisers for families going through difficult times.
“My heart and my life has been this city. I don’t know of any other city where officers will come in and check on you when you’ve fallen out of bed, and stay with you a little while just to make sure you’re okay,” O’Connell said of the Sparks Police Department’s senior phone patrol program.