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Lifestyles

June 25, 2014

MOSS: Former Jeffersonville Mayor Galligan flies into new roles

Oversees Clark Regional Airport, Clark County Democrats

— Tom Galligan’s cell phone rang once, then again. Into it he barked instructions, directions, over a blare of music where we had met for lunch.

Galligan helped arrange for heaps of dirt to be spread across sports fields being remade at his alma mater, Providence High School. Galligan said it was a freebie, work that otherwise could have cost the school. Galligan pitches in for worthy causes, like thankfully do many people.

Very, very few others, though, have such reason to flip off good citizenship like Galligan. He has lost twice for re-election as Jeffersonville’s mayor. Galligan’s priorities and methods were second, third and fourth guessed, even occasionally by his allies. Yet Galligan again bounces back, claiming no bitterness. And his challenges today are no less imposing than were ones he confronted as mayor.

Galligan presides over both the Clark Regional Airport and the county’s Democratic Party. For the airport, Galligan wants greatness. For the party, Galligan wants a return to greatness. Both goals require effort and promise frustration far beyond what most of us — whipped twice on Election Day or not — would accept.

As Galligan good friend Phil McCauley reminds, though, Galligan is not like most of us. “I knew he’d get back into something,” McCauley said. “I knew he’d make things happen.”

Galligan soon turns 68 but said he feels 45. Life is what we make it, he said, and there indeed is more to be made. Galligan lacks no less for determination than when he entered public life two decades ago. “I just like to get things gone and I know how to do it,” Galligan said between bites of the shrimp special.

Galligan assumed reins of the Democrats at a time they hold fewer local offices than perhaps ever. Republicans reasonably figure further to make inroads. Galligan’s focus is to convince top-notch people, especially younger ones, to be candidates and party workers. Galligan said he asks those he approaches if they are satisfied with government. If not, help change it. “’You’ve got to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,’” Galligan said he says.

Galligan considers the airport a diamond in the rough, an underappreciated asset. To boost commerce, the airport needs to accommodate larger planes and finally that seems likely. Work on a runway extension is being scheduled. The place still needs other upgrades, though, and Galligan obviously is not the type to give up. “The goal is to make the airport the best it can be and to do it responsibly,” he said. “It’s not just to spend money but to invest.”

Also keeping busy with his family’s excavating company, Galligan rules out another try to be mayor. Though to be sure, Galligan need not be begged to critique Mike Moore, the mayor who ousted Galligan in 2011. Galligan especially still wishes Jeffersonville built the downtown canal for which he pushed like crazy.

Evidence of Galligan’s bulldog determination nonetheless abounds — a vibrant riverfront, an enviable aquatic center and Little League park, a preserved Quartermaster and a spectacular Vissing Park. McCauley called public service Galligan’s reason for living, his special way to help his hometown improve for one and all. “I’ve never had occasion to question his motives,” McCauley said. “It’s not self-serving and never has been. That’s what attracted me to him in the first place.”

Smiling, Galligan said his enemies agree he got much accomplished. Oh well, Galligan keeps saying yes to involvement no matter that voters said no to him. “What else have I got to do?” he asked. “If I can contribute, I’m glad to do it.

“I think everybody else ought to feel the same way.”

— Send column ideas to dale.moss@twc.com

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