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Baltimore's top financial officer and longtime budget writer said Monday he will retire from city government, the first Cabinet-level departure since Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake won the Democratic primary this month.

Though not a household name, Edward J. Gallagher has been a behind-the-scenes force in shaping every Baltimore spending plan since he was hired in 1983. The city's finance director since 2005, he plans to remain in the job until the mayor's office completes a national search for a replacement.Rawlings-Blake called him "one of our city's unsung heroes." Former Mayor Sheila Dixon said: "He is the man."

And Gov. Martin O'Malley, who as mayor promoted him to his current job, said he always had "the utmost respect for his integrity" and recalled that Gallagher was the first official he asked to stay on upon becoming mayor in 1999. "He's honest as the day is long," O'Malley said.

In recent years, Gallagher has overseen the accumulation of a rainy-day fund and pushed policies that nudged Baltimore's credit rating from A+ to AA. He drew the ire of fire and police unions last year by shaping a deal that cut ballooning pension benefits.

Though many of Gallagher's ideas kept the city on stable financial footing in the long term, his City Hall reputation is that of the consummate "no man" for reining in the spending ideas of the city's political leaders.

Gallagher recalled William Donald Schaefer haranguing him after the then-mayor noticed a favorite garden-focused project had been cut from the city's Recreation and Parks Department budget. Schaefer pointed at Gallagher and yelled: "You cut my flowers!"

The city finance director also disliked the long tradition of fancy lunches the day of City Council meetings, a battle he eventually won when Rawlings-Blake became mayor and cut back the perk. Salmon cakes went out. Deli sandwiches came in.

Gallagher's command of nuances within the $2.3 billion city budget and his direct, no-nonsense manner has allowed him to maintain a professional — though sometimes frosty — relationship with both the mayor's office and the City Council. As a sign of respect, the last two mayors and most City Hall staffers have referred to him as Mr. Gallagher.

(Read the rest of the story here.)

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