NEW PORT RICHEY — Between a presentation on growth management and a lien reduction request, County Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand took a break at Tuesday's meeting to thank a longtime colleague and friend.
She asked for permission to consider an item that wasn't on the commission agenda — a resolution honoring John Gallagher, who marks 30 years as county administrator on Thursday.
Clerk of courts Paula O'Neil read the resolution in full. It ticked off a list of improvements on Gallagher's watch after he took over a rural county poised to explode with new residents.
A parks system. A library system. Central water and sewer. Improvements to major roads. Construction of the Suncoast Parkway.
"You always hear about local boy does well," said Gallagher, who moved to Pasco as a toddler and graduated from Saint Leo University. "Well, we've done pretty good. We've had a lot of good times, and we've brought this county gigantic leaps."
Gallagher, 65, thanked commissioners for supporting him after a critical Urban Land Institute report in 2008 said the county should overhaul its approach to planning and economic development. Those recommendations have formed the basis of several major policies, including the so-called "mobility fee" that seeks to funnel new growth to urban areas.
"This is probably the most exciting period of my tenure as county administrator," he said.
Gallagher is thought to be the longest-serving county administrator in Florida. He's also considered one of the most powerful local government officials in Tampa Bay. And he isn't afraid of lively discussions. According to a sly clause in the resolution, he inspires employees "to utilize their inside voices to professionally discuss difficult issues."
Gallagher received a standing ovation and posed for a photo with commissioners and nearly two dozen senior staffers. He spoke for a few minutes, and commissioners thanked him for his leadership.
Then they took up that lien reduction request. Said Hildebrand: "It's hard to go back to the agenda after this."
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.