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Frank O’Marra, who has served as executive director of the Bergen County Bar Association, has stepped down from the organization as of January 22nd, 2021. He is succeeded by Jackie Guenego, who previously worked for the New Jersey office of Cancer Care as a professional fundraiser and event planner.
O’Marra, who turned 70 last month, was initially appointed to a one-year term as executive director of the BCBA, not expecting his role to last for another 34 years after that. In an interview, O’Marra stated that he felt now was a good time to step aside, referencing the fact that judges have mandatory retirement at 70 and also citing the pause in live event programming for the BCBA precipitated by the pandemic. O’Marra stated his desire for a new perspective for the BCBA once the organization gets back to holding in-person events in the fall.
When O’Marra was tapped in 1985 to become executive director of the BCBA, the association had a little over 1,000 members. Today, the BCBA has more than 2,000 members and ranks among the top four largest bar associations in New Jersey and one of the largest bar associations in the county.
Reflecting on his time, O’Marra notes, “There is a tremendous amount of camaraderie within the practice of law. When I started here, all the judges were 20 years older than I was. Today, they’re all 25 years younger than I am.” O’Marra said that it was always easy to stay on as executive director because “you suddenly enjoy and gravitate toward high-achieving people who are really doing so much good for younger attorneys, working with the court system and with the judiciary, and giving so much of themselves, like continuing legal education programs and taking on pro bono clients.”
O’Marra says he will be enjoying retirement with his wife Michele and their dog, stating “The greatest reward for me in leaving is the friendships that I’ve been able to enjoy...our membership responds for the good of the profession and to promote our association. It’s been a tremendous 35 and a half years.”
Over a dozen attorneys, judges, and lawmakers offered their praise for O’Marra and his over three-decades long leadership of the BCBA.
Michael Epstein, of the Epstein Law Firm, P.A. who served as president of the BCBA from 2016 to 2017, said of O’Marra, “Frank has an amazing memory of events, history and facts.” Epstein continued, “we’re really losing the ability to turn to him and say, ‘Hey, has this ever happened before? Has anything similar happened before? How did we handle it? Were there ever any other resolutions? That was probably one of his strongest traits.”
Guenego, who had been shadowing O’Marra for several weeks prior to assuming the executive directorship, said of O’Marra, “Frank is one of those people who when he speaks to you, you feel like you’re the most important person in the room...He gives you his undivided attention and you get the distinct impression that he wants you to succeed and he’s there to help you.”
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