When the Democratic National Convention takes place in Denver August 25-28, the city will be taking advantage of approximately $50 million provided by the federal government to cover security costs for the event. One man will be heading up the cause to ensure that only those federal funds will be used for convention security”not the taxes of local Denver citizens. That man is Dennis Gallagher, Auditor of the City and County of Denver. Gallagher, a Denver native and proud Irishman, was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1970. Since then, he has built an impressive political career of public service, culminating in his being awarded the Community Leader Award on May 14, 2008. The award recognizes Gallagher”s work to modernize and streamline the Denver Auditor”s office. Ever since Gallagher was elected Auditor in 2003 (Denver is one of only a few cites where the position is an elected one), he has been working to protect the city”s taxpayers by acting as a financial watch dog, and eliminating waste — going so far as consolidating his own department. In January, he helped to change the city charter to establish a truly independent audit committee, one that conforms to nationally accepted standards and avoids any conflicts of interest. Gallagher is the man who is literally keeping our local government honest. “I tell truth to power,” Gallagher says. “Whether they want to hear it or not.” While the branches of his political career span almost 40 years, his roots of Irish heritage go deep. Walking into his office in the Wellington Webb building in downtown Denver, you may be greeted in Gaelic. Above his bookshelf is the statue of a harp, the symbol of Ireland. And not only are his Irish roots deep, but also they are firmly planted in Colorado soil. His grandfather, William Joseph Gallagher, immigrated to Denver from Sligo in the early 1900s, finding work on the railroads. This was a time when Protestants and Catholics marched together in Saint Patrick”s Day parades. (They later split after the Irish civil war.) William was a member of the Irish Fellowship Club, and the United Mine Workers. “You look up the death rolls in Leadville,” Gallagher says of the old mining town. “There”s lots of Gallaghers buried in Potter”s Field.” Gallagher”s passion to protect the citizens of Denver surely stems from his grandfather”s Irish-American experience of hard work, solidarity, and love of freedom and opportunity for the common man. “God bless America and the union label” was a regular refrain in the household, and his son, Gallagher”s father, went on to become a firefighter. Things were very different in those days, and not always easy for Irish immigrants during the Ku Klux Klan era ” even as far north as Denver. Gallagher tells the tale of his mother, Ellen Flaherty, a young coat check girl at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, being ushered into a hiding place among the jackets one night so the roving Klansmen couldn”t find her. From North Denver, Gallagher attended Skinner Middle School, where there were “37 straight years of Gallaghers,” he says. While he only had one sibling, a brother, his aunt had 11 children. A recreation center has to be rented just to accommodate family reunions. After Skinner, Gallagher attended Holy Family Grade and High School, and then went on to Regis College, where he earned a BA in English Literature and minors in Latin and Greek. That”s how the hook of public service finally became firmly implanted in his hungry mouth. At Regis, he was exposed to, and greatly inspired by, classical writings on arts and public policy, especially Cicero”s speeches against the tyrants of the Roman Republic. After Regis, Gallagher attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in Speech Communication, which he has been teaching for the past 42 years. He returned to Regis, where he is now Professor Emeritus. An astonishingly learned and well-read scholar, Gallagher shows no signs of slowing down after his retirement from Regis in 2003. He leads cemetery and neighborhood tours, utilizing his encyclopedic knowledge of his city. In July, he led a group of Regis students on a two-week tour through Ireland, to explore the nation”s literature, culture, history and politics. When he returns to Denver, he will continue to advise city administrators on how they can do things better, and more efficiently. “I should have been an anthropologist,” he says. “What we”re doing is trying to change the culture, to make the city more accountable and improve the business processes.” With a desk buried under copies of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, (which he distributes), it”s apparent that he truly loves America and what it stands for. His grandfather from Sligo instilled in him the “idea that you could give something back. The country was good to us.” Denver is lucky to have such a committed, vigilant servant keeping his watchful eyes on taxpayer dollars. While the upcoming Democratic National Convention will fill Denver with high hopes and celebrations, Gallagher will continue to save us money, and to protect the money we already have. Editors note: Dennis has just been named Grand Marshall of the 2009 Denver ST. Patrick”s Day Parade. As an Irish-American and public servant Dennis has marched in the annual parade for many years. On Saturday March 14 he will be honored for his service to the Denver community and his support and perpetuation of his Irish roots and culture Published in August 08 Celtic Connection

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