John O’Reilly Sr. served as mayor of the City of Dearborn from 1978-1986.
O’Reilly was a veteran of the Armed Forces who joined the military in 1942 and served for over a decade. This included four years of active duty during World War II and two years in the Korean War. O’Reilly later become Director of Dearborn’s Veterans Bureau from 1957 to 1964. He continued his service as an officer in the Army National Guard and retired with the rank of major.
O’Reilly began his career with the City of Dearborn as Civil Defense Director in 1955 and would go on to serve as Chief of Police under Orville Hubbard. He implemented several key programs during his time as Police Chief, including a police hotline, a Neighborhood Watch program, a special operations unit, and a 200-person police reserves unit. He also helped form the police cadet program and Police Explorer Post for young citizens. In 1972, the U.S. Attorney General recognized O’Reilly for achieving one of the highest rates of crime reduction in the country.
John O’Reilly Sr. was known for his phrase “Good neighbors make good neighborhoods,” and as mayor he moved Dearborn forward during a period of economic change for the City. During his time as mayor, the annual festival, later known as Homecoming, began, even as the City experienced a loss of revenue from Ford Motor Company , and as the nation struggled with a recession. O’Reilly consolidated City departments, reducing the total number from 22 to 13, cut the deficit by one-third, and streamlined overall City operations.
O’Reilly was also a popular mayor, winning his reelection with 70 percent of the total votes in 1981.
O’Reilly also helped to create citizen commissions and neighborhood associations to work on important issues like updating the city’s building code, and, for fostering community spirit, such as holding the City’s 50th anniversary party. With his background in law enforcement, he also promoted community policing efforts, opening a “mini-station” in Dearborn’s South End, working alongside the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.