Remembering Dennis Gallagher, a True Public Servant for Denver
Denver is a duller town today.
Dennis Gallagher passed away on Friday, April 22, after a short illness. He was 82. information spread quickly by this city where he was born and raised, this city he’d devoted his life to serving. He did so everywhere from the Colorado Legislature to Denver City Council to the Denver Auditor’s Office, from classrooms to coffeehouses.
Gallagher grew up in north Denver and graduated from Regis University, where he taught off and on for forty years after getting a master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in 1967. Just three years later, he was elected to the legislature, where he made his mark with the Gallagher Amendment, a 1982 measure that voters repealed in 2020…an act that many of them regretted as soon as they opened their last character tax bill.
“Be honest with the people,” Gallagher urged back in the spring of 2020, after legislators had put that repeal proposal on the ballot. “How much more do you want homeowners to pay so that businesspeople can pay less?”
By then, he was officially, finally out of public office — most recently the Denver Auditor’s Office, where he’d served since 2003 after eight years on city council, two runs for mayor and 22 years in the legislature. But he was nevertheless always out in public, hosting his St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, offering tours of cemeteries and other spots around town, and opining on just about everything, with that impish Irish wit and great, thorough voice.
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In 2015, at a roast when Gallagher left public office, I was one of the roasters.
He seemingly knew everything about Denver and everyone in it, past and present. I was lucky enough to play crusading reporter Polly Pry to his Mayor Robert Speer in a Colorado Inside Out Time Machine episode on 1917 for PBS12 (watch it below), and he was always ready with an insightful, often entertaining opinion on more current events when I contacted him for an actual story. I was one of his retirement roasters in 2015, and appreciated the much more erudite job he did when he roasted his longtime friend and colleague Tom Noel late last year.
Dennis Gallagher’s family announced his passing on his Facebook page. “It is with heavy hearts and profound grief that we regret to inform you that Dennis Gallagher passed from this life on Friday evening. Dennis passed peacefully in his sleep. As a larger than life presence, not only in our family but in the greater Denver community, the thoroughness of our loss cannot be fully expressed.”
That page is topped with the words “Gallagher’s World” in his perfect, precise penmanship, and now filled below with messages from those he touched.
Dennis Gallagher’s world was this city. And for so many, he was this city.
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