Arthur V. Gallagher, a respected former Bergenfield councilman known for a laser-focus on fiscal responsibility during his eleven years in local government, died on May 22. He was 88
He was the father of Art Gallagher, the editor of More Monmouth Musings, a popular political news and opinion website, and a well-known political strategist in Central Jersey.
On Facebook, Art Gallagher said that he and other family members were with him when he passed away, along with others joining on a video call.
“We sang and played his favorite songs, read prayers and told stories together,” Art Gallagher said. “He was ready.”
As a local officeholder, Gallagher exposed that a park ranger hired under a federal funded program had been assigned to guard private property. He also objected to building 60 homes in a flood zone; decades later, Gallagher has been proven right. Gallagher also initiated mandatory recycling programs.
Gallagher first ran for office in 1967 when he sought a council seat on an independent ticket led by Council President John Atanasio. Atanasio has become angry when party leaders picked another councilman, Charles “Jim” O’Dowd, as their candidate for mayor. John Ochanski ran with Gallagher.
O’Dowd and his slate and won the race, but Gallagher finished strong for an independent with 1,892 votes.
Gallagher ran for borough council again in 1972, this time as the Republican candidate seeking to end the Democratic majority. He ran with incumbent Andrew Ketcham against incumbent J. Donald Wasserman and 23-year-old John Cherkezian.
Independents Robert Korn and Joseph Roman also entered the race. In 1971, O’Dowd had given up his mayoral seat to run for State Assembly – he lost to Democrats Byron Baer and Albert Burstein – and independent Walter Rosenbaum was elected mayor.
In that campaign, Gallagher alleged that Bergenfield Democrats of fiscal mismanagement, stripping Rosenbaum of his authority as mayor, and entering into a secret plan to approve a controversial development proposal.
Gallagher was the top vote-getter in that election with 5,953 votes, followed by Ketchum (5,792), Wasserman (4,612), Cherkezian (4,499), Korn (2,144) and Roman (1,142).
The election of Gallagher gave Bergenfield a 3-3 partisan split on the borough council, with an independent mayor.
Rosenbaum and Ketchum unexpectedly resigned in 1973 and the Watergate Democratic landslide of that year left Gallagher as the last standing Republican in municipal government. In 1974, Republican William Armitage was elected mayor in a special election despite year two of the Watergate Democratic wave.
In 1975, Gallagher was again the top vote-getter, receiving 4,240 votes. Democrat Raymond Thoens, a former councilman, won the second seat with 4,140 votes; he ran 38 votes ahead of GOP incumbent Carlo Cecchino and 159 votes ahead of his running mate, former Councilman Raymond Gorman. In that election, Democrat James Lodato narrowly unseated Armitage for mayor.
Citing mediocre people in government and a lack of leadership by Lodato, Gallagher resigned from the borough council in early 1977.
Gallagher remained active in community affairs in Bergenfield – he won the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Bergenfield VFW Pot 6487 for his work with the Bergenfield Blood Donors Association — and in 1982 decided to return to the borough council.
By then O’Dowd has returned to the mayoral post.
Democratic Councilwoman Delores Butler was re-elected with 4,726 votes and Gallagher won the second seat with 4,275 votes – 86 votes ahead of his running mate, incumbent Joseph Corrado, and 238 votes ahead of Democrat George Simoni.
Gallagher was re-elected to the council in 1985 with 3,920 votes, helping to carry in his running mate, Josephine Frederickson (3,698). Butler (3,467) lost her seat, and Lodato, seeking a comeback, finished fourth with 3,140 votes.
In an upset, Gallagher lost re-election in 1988 by just 33 votes in a race that saw Bergenfield Democrats capture three council seats.
The following year, Republican Julio Varela resigned his seat on the Englewood council and dropped his bid for State Assembly in the 37th district to take a job in Florida. Gallagher agreed to step in as a replacement candidate to make sure Bergen county Republicans fielded a full ticket.
1989 was a strong Democratic year across New Jersey and incumbents Byron Baer (D-Englewood) and D. Bennet Mazur (D-Fort Lee) had no trouble winning re-election. Gallagher and his running mate, Leonia Councilman Anthony Cassano, lost by more than 17,000 votes.
Gallagher ran for Bergen County freeholder in 1992 when O’Dowd declined to seek re-election in order to run for Surrogate.
Incumbent Barbara Chadwick ran for re-election and nine Republicans went to the Bergen GOP convention seeking party support to run for the seats occupied by O’Dowd and Democratic Freeholder Mary H. Donohue.
Republicans went with South Hackensack Mayor Richard Kelly and former Kean administration deputy attorney general Todd Caliguire.
In 1966, Gallagher was among the signatories of a clergy-sponsored statement of belief circulated by the Fair Housing Committee of Bergenfield, Dumont and New Milford that said discrimination was “undemocratic and violates basic human rights and dignity” and backed equality opportunity in housing. The statement expressed a willingness to “accept as our neighbors persons on their merit, without regard to race, creed or national origin.”
He had worked as a sales manager for an industrial shipping container manufacturer before retiring.
Gallagher’s former wife, Eleanor, served several terms on the Bergenfield Board of Education beginning in 1964.