About Margaret O’Brien


Results oriented, community minded, kind, devoted and family oriented are all words that friends use to describe Margaret O’Brien. Local non-profit Executive Director Fran Denny said, “Margaret will be an excellent legislator because she is smart, principled and compassionate.”

Margaret has brought these qualities to the community as your State Senator, State Representative and Portage City Councilwoman. Elected in 2014 to the State Senate and in 2010 to the State House, Margaret has brought energy, enthusiasm and a strong work ethic. Challenging the status quo, Margaret worked to eliminate the budget deficit, enact common sense reforms and advocate for hardworking families. Her goal is to ensure fiscal responsibility in the future by being responsible with your tax dollars today.

Fighting For Jobs

Job growth has been a priority of Margaret’s, and she has fought for local businesses creating jobs in our area. Local Business Executive Steven Cummins stated, “It was refreshing to find a political leader willing to take the time to understand our vision to grow in Michigan.  She clearly understood the fundamental business challenges and opportunities.  In addition, she appreciated the risk we were undertaking to grow in this state.”  Having served on numerous committees dealing with job growth and taxation, Margaret has fought for fair and simple taxes and regulations that create a positive environment for Job Growth.

Transparency In Government

Margaret has long been an advocate of responsible government and fiscally conservative budgeting.  Today, she is fighting for transparency in the Legislature and within State Departments. She is concerned about decisions made by career bureaucrats that have allowed our drinking water to be contaminated. This fight is not new.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security, Margaret uncovered abuses in the Grand Rapids Veterans Homes. She led the hearings to uncover the problems, and today, the Home is now passing all state and federal investigations. As a Portage City Councilwoman, she successfully fought to get the City’s agendas and checkbook published online. When serving on the House Committee of Oversight, Margaret reviewed the Auditor General Reports to ensure proper use of your tax dollars. Also, she has advocated for clearer laws on Open Meetings Act to ensure public business occurs in the public realm.

Responsible Government means an effective partnership at all levels of government. Margaret regularly partners with local communities to address issues and meet needs. “Margaret has been a key partner in ensuring we are able to serve our community in a responsible and open manner,” agrees Vicksburg Village Supervisor Bill Adams.


Other community leaders recognize Margaret’s passion for serving her community and tackling tough issues. Margaret has been actively engaged with other local leaders looking at community wide issues. Schoolcraft Township Supervisor Don Ulsh endorses Margaret “because of her intellect, energy, and persistence in getting to the bottom of issues that affect our area. Margaret has the uncanny ability to see both sides of an issue and help those involved reach consensus.”

Perhaps this is best seen everyday as Margaret works with both Republicans and Democrats on important issues. Currently, Margaret is working with Senate Democrat Minority Leader on school safety legislation that will bring more mental health resources in to schools. Her strong, bi-partisan record shows she values getting things done by working with anyone who has the same goals.

Protecting The Most Vulnerable

Margaret has a passion for the most vulnerable. Most recently, Margaret led the charge in changing our state laws to better protect children and adults victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Working with the Sister Survivors from the Nassar case, she worked across the aisle to change state laws that will hold sexual abusers and assailants responsible for their crimes. Additionally, she is still working with Domestic Assault organizations and survivors to implement an address confidentiality program that will protect victims who are today being threatened by their abusers.

Kalamazoo County has seen its share of tragedies. In response to the horrific bicycle tragedy in Kalamazoo County, Margaret introduced and saw signed into law the vulnerable roadway user legislation.  She effectively worked with her colleagues in both the House and Senate to pass these bills. In 2016, Margaret worked with local Representatives Brandt Iden and Jon Hoadley to implement the active shooter alert legislation in response to the senseless Uber tragedy.

In last year’s budget, Margaret secured statewide funding for Smart 911, a program that allows households to create accounts for public safety to use. This program lets first responders know the information you believe is important in an emergency.  During her state legislative career, she has invested much of her energy in helping expand access to services for those with autism. In 2014, she was successful at securing a $4 million grant for Western Michigan University to expand autism services.

Strong Work Ethic

A lifelong resident of Kalamazoo County, Margaret grew up working on dairy farms- first in Pavilion Township, then in Texas Township. With her three brothers and parents, Margaret worked hard- instilling qualities that she is known for now as a public servant. Like many farm youths, she spent summers detasseling corn. “Those summers taught me that hard work is the key to success. Working in the hot sun, for long hours in less than ideal conditions, I learned that you finish whatever job you start no matter how hard it is.”

Margaret graduated Mattawan High School in 1991 and went to Michigan State University. She attended MSU’s prestigious James Madison College, and paid her own way through college working two jobs while earning a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations in 1996.

Returning home to Kalamazoo, Margaret was hired at Catholic Family Services (now called Catholic Charities) as a Crisis Worker at their ARK shelter for runaway, troubled and homeless teens. Margaret earned promotions and eventually managed their Caring Network pregnancy support program.

During this time, Margaret gave birth to her son, Tyjon. As a single mother, she provided for both her son and for her father who suffered from Parkinson’s disease.


In 1999, Margaret met Nick O’Brien playing on a softball team. Two years later on St. Patrick’s Day, they were married. Together, they parent four children: Samantha, Tyjon, Duane and Tori. With a recent college graduate and two children in college, they understand the many issues families face daily. As a family they enjoy being outdoors, playing sports and spending time with their extended family.

During her legislative career, Margaret has used her hobbies to promote issues facing Michigan citizens. In 2016, she and Senator David Knezek ran the Marine Corps Marathon to raise awareness about Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress that many military men and women face from combat. Senator Knezek, a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq, is the Minority Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security.

Margaret has been a REALTOR ® since 2003. “When I decided to leave social work, I knew I wanted to continue to serve others. Real estate was a natural fit- I can serve my clients by understanding their needs and priorities.”