Obituary: Andrew O'Rourke

The Associated Press


Andrew O'Rourke
Andrew O'Rourke

Andrew O'Rourke, a former Westchester County executive and state court judge, died on Jan. 3 after a long illness. He was 79.

O'Rourke, a Republican, served as Westchester County's chief executive from 1983 to 1997. In 1986, he ran unsuccessfully against Governor Mario Cuomo, the father of the current governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Among his accomplishments as county executive, O'Rourke expanded the Westchester County Airport, the county jail and open spaces. He also renovated the Westchester County Center and turned a former dump into Croton Point Park. In the 1980s, he built transitional housing to address the county's homeless population and reliance on motels to house homeless families.

A graduate of Fordham University School of Law, O'Rourke was appointed to the Court of Claims by Governor George Pataki in January 1998. He was elected in November 2000 to the Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District and served until his retirement in 2009.

Although he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2003, he was certificated to spend an additional six years on the bench.

"Andy O'Rourke was a great judge, an outstanding county executive and most important, he possessed a warm, funny and generous spirit," Pataki said in a statement. "He brought excellence and integrity to all he did in public life and will be greatly missed."

O'Rourke began his political career as a member of the Yonkers City Council, serving from 1966 to 1973. From 1973 to 1982, he served on the County Board of Legislators, the last four years as chairman.

Known for his wit, O'Rourke ran TV spots when he ran for governor featuring himself and a life-sized cardboard cutout of Mario Cuomo, whom O'Rourke tried to portray as the "one-dimensional governor" who refused to come out and debate. O'Rourke took the cutout, which had a constantly moving mouth, with him on campaign appearances too.

"We will miss Andy's vigor and passion for serving the public, as well as his humor which had the power to gracefully disarm political opponents as well as ease the tension of a heated debate in the courtroom," Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "Despite our political differences, my family and I have always considered Andy a close friend and colleague, and he will be dearly missed."

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