Joseph Gallucci is far more than a Warwick councilman. He’s an institution.
He has served the community in many roles. He is a board member of the Kent County Water Authority and, between terms on the City Council, he served as the clerk of the Warwick Board of Canvassers and Director of Human Services – he held both jobs at the same time. He is a 22-year veteran of the Rhode Island National Guard, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
The list of community contributions also includes being a past president and manager of the Continental Little League.
It’s no wonder then that Ralph’s in Cranston was at capacity as the Vince Lombardi Lodge 2357, Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, honored Gallucci with the 42nd annual Community Service Award Saturday night.
With one exception, the full City Council was in attendance. Former Mayor Joseph Walsh was in the audience, as were many current and former city employees who had worked with Gallucci as councilman or during his positions in city government. The crowd was put at 260.
Mayor Scott Avedisian spoke of Gallucci’s commitment to the city, saying while working as a city employee Gallucci was always the first in City Hall and the last out. Avedisian also spoke of Gallucci’s service as a councilman, pointing out that he was first elected in 1976. He left the council to run for mayor in 1984, a bid he lost in a three-way Democratic primary to Frank Flaherty. The third candidate was attorney Joseph McGair, who had likewise served on the council.
Gallucci never lost his passion to be mayor. He was frequently rumored as a candidate, but he never made another run for the post. He ran and was returned to the council in 1991 and served until 1994. He was named clerk of the Board of Canvassers in 1996. He ran again for council in 2012.
Gallucci’s peers recognized his leadership capabilities, electing him at council president in 1983-84 and again in 1993-94.
Avedisian observed Gallucci held the distinction of serving on the council in four of the last five decades.
City Council President Joseph Solomon greeted Gallucci with a hug before telling the audience, “Joe is a giving guy.” He talked of Gallucci’s involvement. Words of appreciation of Gallucci’s involvement also came from Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee and West Warwick Councilman Jason E. Licciardi.
Born in Providence on Feb. 9, 1935, Gallucci was a member of the 1953 class of Lockwood High School. He went on to graduate from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1957. Following graduation, he went to work as a cost accountant for Hammel-Dahl in Warwick.
A year later he joined the Rhode Island National Guard, serving his active duty at Ft. Lee in Virginia. On completion of his active service, Gallucci returned to Hammel-Dahl, where he became a regional representative for the manufacturer of motorized valves. He continued with the company after its acquisition by ITT General Controls until retiring in 1993.
In a telephone call Monday, Gallucci said he had imagined a career in the Army but that things turned out differently.
“I enjoyed working in sales and with engineers,” he said of his tenure with ITT.
Gallucci also touched on one of his pet peeves that government fails to consider the long-range consequences of its actions.
Gallucci was the proponent of a waste-to-energy plant that was reportedly more than 90 percent clean as an alternative to the state landfill, which has a finite life.
“Nobody wants it in their back yard,” he said, “but we need energy.”
Now, he pointed out the issue of waste disposal has been simply postponed.
Gallucci’s fierce protectionism of Ward 8 and what it means to the city was cause for some laughs Saturday.
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi, featured speaker for the evening, recalled how Gallucci often reminded his council colleagues that Ward 8 homeowners and businesses (the malls and Route 2 retail is in the ward) account for a third of city’s property tax revenues.
On a serious note, Shekarchi said, “Joe Gallucci would probably tell you that he is the luckiest man alive to be a lifelong resident of Warwick, but that would not be the truth. The truth is that it is the City of Warwick and its residents who are the lucky ones because of the fact that Joe Gallucci has always called Warwick his home.”
Gallucci said Monday he was honored by the tribute, especially because of the good work done by the Vince Lombardi Lodge and that the funds raised would enable the lodge to continue their charitable work and scholarship program.
The occasion was also bittersweet for the man who has devoted so much of his life to public service. He said his wife, Mary Ann, had been looking forward to the event and was excited for him. She passed away last month.
Mary Ann was honored in the evening’s program book, and as the evening drew to a close, at Gallucci’s request, Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” was played.