Michael O'Rourke has worked as a dishwasher, a county solicitor, a taxi driver, a volunteer tutor for prison inmates and a bureaucrat.
When he was asked to take a job as interim manager for Hanover Borough last month, an old, familiar thought popped into his mind
"Well that sounds like it could be interesting."
It's the mantra that has often guided major life decisions for Hanover's newest administrator.
O'Rourke folded his tattooed hands on his lap -- remnants of a rebellious youth in North Philadelphia -- and leaned back in his new office's swivel chair Wednesday before beginning the story of his career. It was a long road, with a seemingly endless list of jobs along the way, that led to the high school drop out becoming Hanover's interim borough manager.
O'Rourke left Thomas A. Edison High School in 1967 on his 16th birthday. Leading up to that decision, O'Rourke had barely been going to class, opting to spend his days at museums, historical sites, libraries and other places his teenage self found infinitely more interesting than the racial strife that dominated his school, he said.
After dropping out, O'Rourke worked a series of odd job, many of which were in restaurants. His end goal was to learn to be a cook, but he still ended up washing his fair share of dishes along the way.
"I didn't do anything for real long," he said.
O'Rourke eventually earned his GED, spent several years enlisted in the U.S. Army and briefly returned back to restaurant work, he said. After being laid off from his mother's restaurant, he returned to Philadelphia to volunteer for a literacy center with adult students.
O'Rourke tutored at local prisons and did paid work teaching remedial math before eventually becoming a tutor trainer, he said.
"The people I worked with kept saying I should go to college," he said. "I thought, 'I'll try that.'"
He enrolled in the Community College of Philadelphia to get an associate's degree in drug and alcohol counseling, a choice inspired by friends from childhood and high school who had substance abuse problems , he said.
"I had a lot of dead friends," he said. "Where I grew up in Philadelphia, it was pretty bad."
One of the faded tattoos on his hands is the astrological symbol for Capricorn, which isn't his sign but that of a friend who died. Several years ago, he began the process of having the tattoos removed but never completed the treatments.
At college, O'Rourke was soon invited into the honors program for interdisciplinary studies, he said. A close friend encouraged him to continue his education by earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy, a subject that interested him, from Haverford College. One month into his first semester there, he knew he wanted to become a criminal defense lawyer to advocate for those like the friends of his youth.
O'Rourke graduated from Temple University's law school in 1986 and accepted a job as a law clerk for a common pleas court judge in Reading, he said.
"After two years, I realized I didn't want to be a part of that system," he said. "It didn't look like justice to me. I saw a lot of unjust things happen."
In the years that followed, O'Rourke used his law degree to work as Schuylkill County solicitor, court master and real estate department director.
"I thought that would be interesting," he said Wednesday each time he recalled switching to a new job.
He eventually decided to begin course work to earn his master's in public administration. Upon completing the degree in 2000, York City offered him a job as the city business administrator. He held that position for about a decade and a half.
During his time in York, he helped clean up the city's financial books and prevent York from becoming financially distressed, he said. He did so by recommending the cutting of programs, elimination of positions and that taxes be raised in the early 2000s, The York Daily Record reported in 2014.
A number of financial issues, such as the dwindling tax base, rising pension and administration costs and aging infrastructure, also plagued the city throughout his tenure, according to the report.
O'Rourke resigned in 2014 from the position after he and Mayor Kim Bracey had "differences of opinion," he said.
Since his resignation, O'Rourke has been collecting a pension and doing consulting work for municipalities around Pennsylvania. When Florence Ford, who resigned as Hanover's manager effective April 30, approached him about working for Hanover, he jumped at the opportunity to take a job close to his home in the York area once again, he said.
For now, O'Rourke is working for the borough on a part-time basis, meaning he receives no benefits, with no cap on the number of hours he can log. If things in Hanover go well, he would like to accept a full-time position, he said.
O'Rourke is still getting his bearings in Hanover, but his love of history fuels that ever keen interest in the places he works.
He is trying to figure out who Sheppard and Myers were, and exactly why the tax base in Hanover is approaching that of York City's but via a far smaller population. He also wants to find solutions for getting more owner-occupied housing in the borough, he said.
O'Rourke believes Hanover will offer plenty of interesting things to keep him busy.