“JCU taught me how important relationships are to getting things done.”
Katie Gallagher was elected to her second term as mayor of the City of Brooklyn in 2019. Following the departure of American Greetings from Brooklyn in 2017, Mayor Gallagher assisted the developers in attracting eight new businesses to the business park, replacing 1,700 jobs and adding $90 million in new payroll. She also expanded green infrastructure through the development of solar farms on the capped Brooklyn municipal landfill. Prior, Gallagher served as president of Brooklyn City Council.
Q: Why did you attend JCU?
A: My sister and I were first-generation college graduates. I knew a small school would offer additional support and an opportunity for stronger connections with my professors. John Carroll was such an open atmosphere. People were accepting and easy to talk to. And I thought being so close to Cleveland and that proximity to internships would make my next step after graduation easier.
Q: What story or experience best reflects your time at JCU?
A: My first year, professors encouraged me to get an internship, so I worked with a nonprofit that did quality checks on government. It was really relevant to what I do now. I learned about brownfields and the Open Records Act. This experience drove home my interest in government. JCU pushed me to learn what was outside of the walls of John Carroll.
Q: What was the most valuable learning/lesson from JCU that shaped you personally or professionally?
A: The value of service and giving back to your community. I learned how to think of others. There’s an aspect to my job, whether I’m working with a constituent or business, where trying to understand where they are coming from and putting myself in their shoes makes my response different. It’s that connection. In my business classes at JCU a lot of the professors said, “You’ll learn a lot of things here about business, but two important skills you’ll need to develop to be successful are networking and relationship building.” I realized that’s how I’m going to get things done. I can learn everything on the subject, but I need to build those relationships to actually implement something.
John Carroll also was a place that I really loved to learn. The professors made it engaging. They made you want to be there. As mayor, I have to learn about a variety of complex topics before I talk about them to the public or put an initiative together. That love of learning I found at John Carroll continues on for me personally and professionally.
Q: How are you making a human impact in your career?
A: One of the things I knew I was walking into was American Greetings, a company that contributed 14% of our city’s revenue, moving their headquarters outside of Brooklyn. Since taking office, I’ve been able to successfully assist bringing in eight new companies to that business park, equaling the same number of employees that left. We now have 21% more in our general fund than when I took office. That focus on economic development came from a realization that how we continue to provide our residents their services is through the businesses I’m able to attract to my community. Building those new relationships has been one of our biggest successes since I’ve been in office.
Secondly, we have a closed landfill, which is a piece of land you can do very limited things with. I worked with the county to turn that into a solar farm that powers several county buildings. Now it’s a revenue source for us, and it expands the green infrastructure that can help Brooklyn attract younger residents to the community. We’re finding ways to adapt and turn obstacles into opportunities.