gmhTODAY 01 gmhToday Mar Apr 2015 - Page 74

“I realized that I had to ‘up my game’ so I joined Toastmasters, learned Roberts Rules of Order, and basically took every opportunity to better equip myself to lead.” In the early 1980s, Kennedy became an engineering consultant with Parsons Corporation. Over the next seven years he managed large-scale industrial, transportation, facilities engineering and construction projects including in the design and engineering of water supply systems for the City of San Jose and Carmel’s 17-mile Drive. His technical background and accomplishments began opening doors to board-level positions. He served as Chairman of South County Regional WasteWater Authority, an organization he commended for its early advances in water recycling that won industry acclaim. During several terms on the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Kennedy helped drive three vital projects: the creation of CalTrain service to South County, the widening of Highway 101 between Morgan Hill and San Jose, and the expedited 74 installation of a median barrier along a dangerous section of the 101 corridor from Morgan Hill to south of Gilroy – a project that was completed in record time. “About a year after the median barrier was installed, a young man called to tell me he had been driving on Highway 101 when a driver in the oncoming traffic had lost control of his car. The young man said that if the barrier hadn’t been there, he and his family would have been victims of a head-on collision. I cried when I heard his story.” A Memorable Mayor Kennedy came to Morgan Hill in 1976. His love for the city sparked concern for balanced growth and development, which soon led to his involvement in civic and community organizations. He served three terms on the Morgan Hill Planning Commission, two terms on the General Plan Update Committee, and was elected to the City Council in G M H T O D A Y M A G A Z I N E MARCH / APRIL 2015 1990. Two years later he was appointed by the City Council to his first term as Mayor of Morgan Hill. Back then, the city and the community were at loggerheads on key issues. Kennedy’s propensity for getting to the heart of an issue, striking a balance and building consensus came at an auspicious time. He became Morgan Hill’s first directly- elected mayor, and was re-elected in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004; serving nearly twelve years before retiring from that role in December 2006. Under his leadership, the City of Morgan Hill became a model for smart growth and balanced community development. The city’s current Mayor, Steve Tate, served on the City Council during several of Kennedy’s terms as mayor. He called Kennedy “a visionary” who inspired community members to make their voices heard in an open process that led to a new direction for the city. This included development of a new community and cultural center, an aquatics center, and an indoor recreation center. Mayor Tate said that Kennedy also helped secure an extension of the RDA, which not only paid for those projects but also partially financed Morgan Hill’s new library and other capital projects such as the construction of Butterfield Boulevard. As Mayor Tate tells it, “Dennis has been a champion of the careful, controlled residential growth that provides Morgan Hill with outstanding, high quality neigh- borhoods while preserving the spirit of our community – the ‘small town feel’. His cautious approach to issues, making sure all options are explored before finalizing direction, has served Morgan Hill well.” Looking back on his time as Mayor, Kennedy recalled how his second wife, Eileen, was by his side for the many social engagements that come with city leadership. Eileen had grown up in Morgan Hill and was working as a registered nurse when she met Kennedy. Although the couple parted ways in 2007, Kennedy has fond memories of their married life and Eileen’s role as Morgan Hill’s First Lady. “She was my coach and confidante, and she had a fantastic sense of humor,” Kennedy said.