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Lawyer going to UAE embassy; Foreign Service post for Dennehy.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

ASHBURNHAM - For former Selectman Jonathan M. Dennehy, getting a call telling him he was selected to serve as a Foreign Service officer was like winning the lottery.

Only 2 percent of those who apply get selected, Mr. Dennehy said on the phone yesterday, while watching his 5-year-old son, Seamus, play with a toy he had become obsessed with at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The Dennehys found out Nov. 10 that their whole lives would be changing and had only eight weeks to pack up everything and close Mr. Dennehy's law office before moving to Washington, where he will be sworn in and wait for his assignment.

The opportunity was a dream for him since high school, he said, and something he had to do or regret not trying for the rest of his life. He filled out the application and took the Foreign Service Officer test a year before he received the call.

"I had two months to close down my law practice and move everything I own to Washington," he explained. "So few people get into the Foreign Service. It's an extreme long shot - almost like winning the lottery to get in. I feel very lucky."

Mr. Dennehy said people who are selected but decide to wait to move forward often do not get another shot at it.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "If you say, `No, it's not convenient for me right now,' you might not get the chance again."

He said he had already talked with his wife, Mary Catherine Dennehy, 45, a real estate agent, about the possibility early in the process. He said she was on board and enthusiastic about it right away.

"We went out to dinner one night, and I told her if she didn't want to do it, to tell me and I wouldn't go through the process," he said. "It was important to me that we were 100 percent together in wanting to do this. You don't disrupt your entire family on a whim. I was surprised she instantly said, `Yeah, let's do it.'" About a month after arriving in Washington, Mr. Dennehy found out he would be assigned to serve as a general services officer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, handling the real estate portfolio of properties owned and leased by the U.S. government and running the day-to-day operations of the consulate.

He said he was chosen for the post because of his experience in town government and work as a real estate lawyer. He will manage about 70 properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Dubai, located on the Arabian Peninsula, is home to the world's largest shopping mall, tallest hotel and the largest manmade structure ever built - the Burj Khalifa tower. It also is known as the shopping capital of the Mideast and as a global city and business hub.

"We were pretty surprised when we found out," he said. "Dubai is not one of the places we focused on going. We thought it would be Mexico or India or somewhere like that. I didn't think much about the prospect of going to the Middle East. There are a lot of positions in Mexico and there are busy consulates on the boarders for entry-level officers, but there has been a lot of violence there. A couple of Americans at a consulate were gunned down in cold blood a few weeks ago. I thought that was where we would go."

Instead, his wife can head to some of the most posh shops in the world in Dubai.

"She's pretty excited about it," he said. "But the cost of living is pretty steep. We'll go to a lot of fancy stores, but won't be able to afford to buy anything. They sell Lamborghinis and Rolexes - it's like going to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills."

The couple is debating whether they will bring their skis with them, he said, to enjoy a famous indoor skiing facility there.

"We were surprised, but once the shock wore off, we were excited about being able to do all the things I wanted to do for a job in Dubai," Mr. Dennehy said. "There are some really exciting things going on in that region with Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It won't be a dull posting by any stretch."

Mr. Dennehy said he is expected to show up at the embassy the morning after the night they arrive in Dubai. The family is flying out of the United States June 8.

"I'm jumping into the deep end," he said. "There's no doubt about it. Being on the Board of Selectmen has taught me a lot and prepared me quite a bit. Thinking about Ashburnham and the lessons I learned and people I learned them from - that is going to stay with me."

The post is a two-year assignment, he said. The U.S. Department of State picks the first two posts for entry-level officers. Then, Mr. Dennehy said, he would be able to have more of a say in where he and his family will go.


CUTLINE: Jonathan M. Dennehy, a former Ashburnham selectman, receives a flag during a so-called Flag Day ceremony at which Foreign Service officers are given a flag of the country where they will be serving. Mr. Dennehy is heading to the United Arab Emirates.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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