Veteran councillor says it's time for change

Frank Galgay looking forward to life after politics

Published on May 22, 2013
St. John's Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay in Quidi Vidi Village. The St. John's city councillor has decided not to run in the next municipal election, after four terms and 16 years representing the downtown area, including Quidi Vidi. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

He may not live in his municipal ward, but he certainly spends a lot of time there.

St. John's Coun. Frank Galgay hasn't lived downtown for more than three decades, but hasn't lost his fondness for the city's core.

The veteran councillor spent his childhood years growing up on Water Street West. He returned to his roots in 1997 when he ran in Ward 2 and has been the councillor for the area ever since.

A former educator and author, Galgay won by 200 votes in one of the most hotly contested wards, beating seven other candidates. Galgay repeated the feat four times, but now has decided 16 years is long enough. He won't seek re-election in September's municipal election.

The husband and father of four is trading in his weekly council agendas for weekly visits with his grown children and grandchildren.

"The people have given me good majorities," he said during a recent interview from his east-end home. "I have always been a people person and I addressed the needs and concerns of the average citizen to the best of my ability. However, after 16 years I've decided it's time to move on and want to go out on a high note."

The high note Galgay refers to is the booming local economy - with increased residential and commercial development, a revitalized downtown, the replacement of aging infrastructure, and the creation of many parkettes and green spaces in the city's inner core.

"Now with the boom upon us, with buildings downtown being opened up again and turned into offices and parking garages, with all this Class A office space and condos, people will be living there and shopping there, will go to the restaurants and boutiques, and it has brought new life to the area, which I think is extremely important," he said.

Two accomplishments Galgay is particularly proud of during his tenure are the construction of Buckmaster's Circle Rotary Park and the refurbishment of Martin's Meadow between Cabot and Livingstone streets.

Bonnie James, executive director of the Buckmaster's Circle Community Centre, shares Galgay's sense of satisfaction with the Rotary park and says he was instrumental in helping make it a reality.

"It was an expensive project and required municipal and provincial funding, and Frank was a huge advocate for us with the city and helping us navigate the process in order to establish the funding," she said.

"Having a park in the heart of the community where the children can run - right next to the boys and girls club just down the road from the centre - is a fabulous accomplishment to us."

Galgay said parks and green spaces are necessary and when a community is without such a place to gather and play, it's up to municipal leaders to provide it.

"For many years, I fought very hard for a park in the centre of the city, and it's important because they are in the heart of the inner city and these facilities were lacking," he said.

"It's very important for society to address the needs and give support services to people in the form of recreation, affordable housing, to give people hope, new challenges, so all of society has an important role to play."

Elinor Dalton headed up Galgay's last three campaigns and has known Galgay and his family for a lifetime. She said when she heard he was running in Ward 2 she wanted to support him.

"I knew he would be good for our ward, which has been proven time and again, having won every election since 1997," she said.

She said she'd work on as many campaigns as Galgay needed her to and was disappointed when he told her he was retiring.

"But at the same time, I was happy for him. He served us well," Dalton said.

James said the Buckmaster's Circle community was also saddened by Galgay's decision, but equally understanding. She said his advocacy will be missed.

"In addition to the great support he gave to the centre and the park, he was also there for the residents. ... He would always go above and beyond for them to ensure their needs are met," she said.

Galgay said he always remembered the people who propelled him to city hall.

"To me, the most important people are the people who elect you, and we should never forget it," he said.

Galgay said change is always good, and with three councillors having announced they are not seeking re-election and the mayor and deputy mayor's seats being contested, it's bound to shake things up.

"Council should be composed of young people and there should be a balance between gender and senior citizens, so change is always good," he said.

Andrew Harvey couldn't agree more. He's a 29-year-old resident of Ward 2 who is seeking that seat for the second time.

He ran against Galgay in the 2009 election and said then it was time for new blood in the council chamber.

"I think it's moreso the energy of council that people are looking at now," Harvey said.

"I think that's the kind of shift young candidates are going to have. People are talking about the old boys' club on city council and they are somehow representative of a different style of politics, and I think things are changing in that there are other ways in engaging society," he said.

He said the city is getting better at involving people in its policies but there is always room for improvement.