NILES -- Monday night's Niles City Council meeting was more about who wasn't in attendance than who was.
With Pat Gallagher absent, the panel paid tribute to Gallagher's husband, Bill, a former long-time member of the Niles Utilities Board who died Friday. He was 86.
Accolades were many for Gallagher, whose 32 years on the board -- he resigned at the end of 2011 -- made him perhaps the longest-serving city resident not entitled to compensation in city history. Mayor Mike McCauslin said that, although he and Gallagher sometimes disagreed, he had "great respect'' for Gallagher, whom he called "extremely passionate'' about Niles.
Their differences stemmed from Gallagher's view that utilities department revenue should stay with the city and the mayor's stance that the utility exists to benefit Niles as a whole.
Other council members also praised Gallagher, with Tim Skalla referring to him as a "gem'' and Dan Vanden Heede calling him a "huge asset.''
"To get that type of involvement is very impressive, Vanden Heede said.
Earlier Monday, Niles City Administrator Ric Huff, like McCauslin, used the word "passionate'' when describing Gallagher.
"He was always wanting (Niles) to go in the right direction. You can't blame anybody for that,'' he said.
Niles Utilities Board Chairman Victor Gutschenritter chimed in as well, pointing out Gallagher so wanted what was best for Niles that he gave up his seat on the board.
"Bill wanted Niles to go with magnetic induction street lighting, and because his nephew (John Gallagher) works for a firm that deals in that, that's why he resigned,'' Gutschenritter said. "He thought it would be a conflict of interest.''
What many may not know is that Gallagher was a World War II veteran who served in the Navy and saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In a 2005 Tribune story, he recalled his fear when he was put ashore on the fourth day of the invasion of Iwo Jima.
"They laid down mortars, and I dove between these two mounds covered with tarps,'' he said. "I didn't realize those mounds were bodies until I looked underneath one of those tarps.''
Monday night's council session saw Huff receive a $500 bonus stemming from a positive evaluation that followed his first year as administrator. Vanden Heede said the relatively small sum wasn't a reflection on his work but an indicator of the city's tight finances.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: