Dennis Gallagher, longtime political figure in Denver and Colorado, dies at 82.



Dennis Gallagher, a longtime Democratic political figure from northwest Denver, author of the Gallagher Amendment and proud defender of his Irish heritage, died Friday night at his home. Gallagher was 82 years old.

A native of Denver, Gallagher was known as a generous and persuasive man whose lifelong involvement in politics, his local community, the Irish community in Colorado, and the Catholic Church established an impressive legacy.

“Dennis was very present in Denver. For decades, his public service has been reflected every day — not just for his beloved North Side — but for the benefit of our entire city,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “He possessed a quick wit who was quick with an Irish phrase in any situation. Although we may have disagreed on many issues, I never doubted that he loved our city. We lost a legendary Denver public servant. Rest in peace my friend.”

Gallagher received a bachelor’s degree from Regis University in 1961 and a master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in 1967. A public speaker, he taught speech, persuasion, and media for more than four decades.

Damian Strohmeyer, The Denver Post

Democratic Senator Dennis Gallagher addresses the Democratic caucus after his appointment as Senate Minority Party Whip in November 1984.

Elected to the State House of Representatives in 1970, he served two terms and joined the State Senate, where he served for 20 years. In 1982, he sponsored the “Gallagher Amendment” to the state constitution. The amendment, which set guidelines and limits on property taxes, was repealed by voters in 2020.

“There they go again. Special corporate interests are trying to fund additional tax relief on the backs of landlords and renters,” Gallagher, who was known to speak his mind, wrote in a Denver Post comment just before the repeal. “Their latest ploy is the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment.”

Gallagher was elected to the city council in 1995, representing Northwest Denver’s District 1 and serving two terms. He was elected Denver auditor in 2003. He was an auditor until 2014.

Amanda Sandoval, the current councilor for the district, described Gallagher as a “true legend” who “will be greatly missed”.

“The passing of Dennis Gallagher is such sad news for our community,” Sandoval said. “He was a friend, a mentor, and he was so knowledgeable. He will be greatly missed in Northwest Denver. Rest in peace, Denis.

In 2003, Gallagher was passed by an opponent in the listener race by a ratio of 2-1.

“We didn’t spend much, but we spent wisely,” Gallagher told a cheering crowd at Luna’s, a restaurant on West 38th Avenue, at the time. “Isn’t that what an auditor is supposed to do?”

A proud Irishman, Gallagher was well known for hosting annual St. Patrick’s Day rallies and celebrations, featuring musicians and step dancers.

“He had a personal connection to the Colorado Irish,” said Anne Hall, manager of the McTeggart Irish Dancers.

Hall met Gallagher in 1995, when her daughter Meaghan danced with the school. She died in December 2000 at the age of 19. Meaghan was buried in her traditional Celtic dance costume.

“I was always struck by how strong Dennis was, because he adored Meaghan so much, and he had this incredible strength to carry it through even though he was completely heartbroken,” Hall said.

Susan Biddle, The Denver Post

Senators Dennis Gallagher, left, and Ron Stewart discuss the issue of recording votes at caucus meetings so that Senators and Representatives are held accountable.

Over the years, Hall usually saw Gallagher at the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations he hosted.

“He always gave so much as a person and as a public servant,” Hall said. “He would give you the shirt from his back.”

In 2015, a 67-minute documentary titled “Gallagher: One of Kind” was released and screened in Denver. Many videos with Gallagher, mostly around political speech, are posted on YouTube.

On Saturday, the Gallagher family released the following statement:

“It is with heavy hearts and deep sorrow that we regret to inform you that Dennis Gallagher passed away on Friday evening. Dennis passed away peacefully in his sleep. 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.As arrangements are finalized, we will keep everyone informed.

Danny Gallagher, Dennis’ son, described his father as a Renaissance man devoted to his family.

“He was a great father; he supported me and Meaghan,” Danny Gallagher said. “He taught me a lot about unconditional love. He taught me a lot about support and loyalty.

Gallagher found his greatest purpose in the Athens Oath, which says “leave the city better than when you found it,” Danny said.

“He led by example,” Danny said. “He really had a calling.

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