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Gallagher assumes council seat at crowded ceremony

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Although City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) won his new title during the November election, he wears it like a man who is tromping along familiar ground.

Gallagher was ceremoniously sworn-in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg before a crowd of 400, including such officials as Borough President Helen Marshall and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), at the Glendale Memorial Building last Thursday.

“When you see people that support you in that matter, it motivates you more to do the best you can,” Gallagher said in an interview following the ceremony. “It makes you say, ‘I’m not going to let these people down. They entrusted their faith with me.’”

Gallagher comes to the job with an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the City Council, which was to meet for its opening session Wednesday with 36 new members.

Having served for 10 years as chief of staff to his predecessor, former Republican Minority Leader Tom Ognibene, Gallagher inherited the councilman’s Metropolitan Avenue office along with much of his staff.

“Immediately upon opening we were able to help service community residents and constituents with problems within the district,” he said only a week after officially assuming his duties as city councilman at the turn of the new year.

Ognibene and the 13 other former council members from Queens were forced out of office Dec. 31 by the new term limits law.

“I feel very confident that I’ll still be able to provide a fair share for the community that I represent, and that I represented with council member Ognibene,” Gallagher said. “We were a team.”

While the Council was expected to choose its speaker Wednesday, the four-member Republican delegation has already selected James Oddo of Staten Island as its minority leader.

“We’re fortunate that we’re hitting the ground running,” Gallagher said.

His induction was also bittersweet in that Ognibene, who recently recovered from a heart attack, was prevented by illness from standing among the well-wishers as his protégé was sworn into the seat he had held for 10 years.

But Gallagher is expecting to rely on the wisdom Ognibene gained during his tenure once his mentor has recovered.

“He’s somebody that I’m going to look to for guidance and support, and I know he’ll be there for me like I was there for him,” Gallagher said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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