A Dedicated Life
By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos by Darren Lovecchio
Chris Gallagher, 60, is one of the most active Sausalitans in town. Her long list of positions includes Sausalito Chamber of Commerce’s board chairman, Rotary’s district regional officer, Sister Cities’ champion Japan member, founder of the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Council at Dominican University, volunteer with Volunteer in Public Safety for Sausalito, and former volunteer and board member of Red Cross, United Way, and Marin Humane. All this in addition to Gallagher’s full-time job as manager of the Bay Model, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ working hydraulic scale model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System. If it sounds like she’s busy, that’s because she is.
“I like being with people, and I guess I just like giving back,” says Gallagher of her community efforts serving both Sausalito and Marin County. “[Volunteering] just sort of snowballed, and it was something that sort of resonated and grew on me.” Gallagher says her single mother didn’t have the time to dedicate to volunteering, but she herself seems incapable of saying no when opportunity arises to help others. “Hopefully, I’ve made a small contribution to the betterment of Sausalito’s community,” she says modestly. “I get back more than I give.”
The majority of Gallagher’s causes come by word of mouth. In most cases, a friend of a friend alerts her to work that would benefit from her attention, or someone in the community reaches out to her, offering a board seat or chair. “A lot of my friends are associated with various organizations I’m involved with,” she explains. Other efforts, such as her work with the animal shelter, are from her own passions. Gallagher would love to have a dog, but her busy schedule doesn’t allow enough time at home to fully care for one. She plays with dogs on the weekends to fulfill that desire and as her own form of therapy.
Gallagher’s full-time work has led to some of her extracurricular activities. She became manager of The Bay Model in 2001—overseeing a $16.5 million renovation to the facility in 2010–2011, including the Army Corps’ largest solar installation—after a long career as a ranger. “I just like being outside, in nature, doing outdoor activities,” say Gallagher. It was a way of life she learned to appreciate while at outdoor camp in Maine. “I’ve never seen myself being someone to sit in a cubicle.”
When it comes to doing it all, Gallagher says one thing makes it all possible: organization. She keeps a calendar, tries her best to avoid double booking, and prioritizes as necessary. Gallagher’s managers at work recognize the importance of her community involvement and allow her the flexibility to maintain her commitments, for which she is very appreciative.
Seeing her impact on the community, even in small ways, is what keeps Gallagher motivated. Her work with Sister Cities, for example, lets her to see how the partnership can have lasting effects on the children involved. During the COVID-19 shutdown, she delivered meals to seniors, and often they would be waiting for a delivery and ready to chat. To Gallagher, that didn’t seem like a big ask. “Never underestimate your small act of kindness,” she says. “You may not think it’s a big deal but clearly, [to the receiver], it’s a big deal.”