Remembering Dennis Gallagher, a true Denver public servant

Denver is a more boring city today.

Dennis Gallagher passed away on Friday, April 22, after a short illness. He was 82 years old. Word spread quickly through this city where he was born and raised, this city he had dedicated his life to serving. He did it everywhere, from the Colorado Legislature to the Denver City Council to the Denver Auditor’s Office, from classrooms to coffee shops.

Gallagher grew up in north Denver and graduated from Regis University, where he taught on and off for forty years after earning 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he was elected to the legislature, where he made his mark with the Gallagher Amendment, a 1982 measure that voters repealed in 2020…an act many of them regretted as soon as they opened their latest property tax bill.

“Be honest with people,” Gallagher urged in the spring of 2020, after lawmakers put that repeal proposal on the ballot. “How much more do you want homeowners to pay so that business owners pay less?”

By then, he was officially finally out of public office, most recently the Denver Auditor’s Office, where he has served since 2003 after eight years on city council, two runs for mayor and 22 years in the legislature. But he was always out in public, organizing St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, giving tours of cemeteries and other places around town, and opining on just about everything, with that mischievous Irish wit and big, deep voice.

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In 2015, at a roast when Gallagher left public office, I was one of the roasters.

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He apparently knew everything about Denver and all of its inhabitants, past and present. I was lucky enough to play crusading reporter Polly Pry before her mayor Robert Speer in a Colorado inside out 1917 Time Machine episode for PBS12 (watch below), and he was always ready with an insightful, often entertaining, take on more current events when I contacted him for a true story. I was one of his retirement roasters in 2015 and appreciated the much more scholarly work he did when he roasted his old friend and colleague Tom Noel late last year.

Dennis Gallagher’s family announced his passing on their Facebook page. “It is with a heavy heart and deep regret that we regret to inform you that Dennis Gallagher passed away on Friday night. Dennis passed peacefully while he slept. As a larger than life presence, not only in our family but in the greater Denver community, the depth of our loss cannot be fully expressed.”

That page is crowned with the words “The World of Gallagher” in his perfect, precise calligraphy, and is now filled 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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