By Harry Keaney
It’s impossible, it seems, to keep John Condlin down.
More than 30 years ago, when he was going to college, he got a job as a school bus driver and ended up becoming the bus coordinator.
"One thing that has always happened to me, from my first job in a restaurant, or as a soda jerk or whatever, I always came in at a certain level and I always reached the top level," Condlin said.
Now, with his appointment as president of the Stamford, Conn., Chamber of Commerce, he has done it again.
Condlin, 50, a native of Natick, Mass., came to Stamford in 1981 as executive director of the city’s urban redevelopment commission. Since then, he has held nearly every volunteer position possible in the Stamford business community. He has also played a leading role in reviving the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, has served as vice president of the board of directors of the AOH, past president of the Stamford Kiwanis Club and member of the board of Stamford Youth Hockey.
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He is an avid sailor, skier and amateur photographer. "I also like to work with wood and refinish antiques," he said. "I use my down time doing things that are mechanical. I enjoy doing that."
Condlin, whose roots extend back to pre-Famine County Tyrone, studied at Wentworth Institute in Boston, graduating in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering. In 1977, he obtained a master’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
In 1977, took a job in Willimantic, Conn., as executive director of the town’s community redevelopment agency. Four years later, he came to Stamford as executive director of the city’s urban redevelopment commission.
And redevelopment is certainly what has happened in downtown Stamford, where the Landmark building, a new shopping mall, corporate offices and, more recently, an array of restaurants as well as an impressive new theater and upscale apartments have replaced what was the old city center. As executive director of the commission, Condlin’s duties included the acquisition, relocation, demolition and disposition of numerous renewal parcels for development.
From 1984 to 1996, he was vice president and chief operating officer for Marlo Associates in Stamford, where he was responsible for the development, financing, management and operations of a $26 million real estate portfolio, consisting of 300,000 square feet of commercial property.
Two years ago, he started his own real estate company, which he is now winding down so he can concentrate on his full-time job as chamber president.
Condlin’s interest in reviving the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Stamford stems not only from his Irish background but also from seeing the way the event was celebrated in and around Boston.
"When I came to Stamford, I found a lack of celebration," he said.
Then, in March 1996, the skirl of the bag pipes echoed through Stamford again.
"The timing was right," Condlin said. "I had just completed my own genealogy, and I had met my father’s first cousins, a wing of the family I had never met."
Condlin added that around 1995, a number of Irish pubs opened in Stamford. "Irish heritage was more recognized," he said. "A further influence was the influx of Irish people who came to the Stamford area in the 1990s. In the fall of 1995, Stamford elected an Irish mayor, Dan Malloy, and a new Hibernian Hall opened."
Condlin himself says he will never run for or hold political office, despite holding a resume of community involvement that many an aspiring politician would covet.
"I do not have an interest in it," he said. "But I do constantly look to influence politicians."
Never an elected politician, perhaps. But always the community activist.