By Maria Keffler
Joe Galdo came to my house for a conversation and photo shoot. We chatted on the porch. We talked with my neighbor and her daughter at the dining room table, and we spent a little time on the back deck, since the day couldn’t have been nicer. “Joe Galdo is an old-fashioned gentleman,” I thought when he shook my hand.
And as I got to know him better, everything about him confirmed that I was right.
Raised in Philadelphia and then Riverside, New Jersey, Joe lived above the jewelry store that his mom and dad owned. “I worked in the store from the time I was a baby,” he said. “My mother would put me on top of the display case near the window and people would come in just to see me!” As he got older, he cleaned those display cases and windows, then worked as a stocker, and eventually as a salesman. He and his sister spent one entire summer typing up address labels for his parents’ catalog.
I asked Joe what his favorite and least favorite jobs had been over the course of his life. In his typical sunny-side-up manner he told me, “I haven’t ever had a bad job. A job is whatever you make of it.”
At that moment I decided Joe ought to mentor some kids I know, who moan at the injustice of being asked to vacuum the living room.
“I always did the best that I could and tried to make my work interesting,” he said. “In my years at the jewelry store, for example, I learned a lot about life and about people.”
People have always been at the center of Joe’s life. With a large extended family, and grandparents that lived between his house and the school, he never lacked for company. “If my grandfather had had his way everyone would’ve lived at their house!” Moving away from Riverside, and all those aunts and uncles and cousins, was the hardest part of leaving for college, when he went to study physics at Fordham University in the Bronx. Joe and his own family still go back to Riverside for visits.
Joe and his wife Maryanne celebrated 50 years of marriage in June, a testament both to their love and commitment and to the time-tested value of keeping promises and putting in the hard work necessary to go the distance. They’ve brought up five children together, two of whom still live with Joe and Maryanne. Their oldest son is learning disabled and struggles with borderline cerebral palsy and their youngest daughter lives with Down Syndrome. “It hasn’t been easy,” Joe says of their special-needs parenting journey, “but it’s made us better people and of course we love the two of them very much.”
All of their children are at the center of Joe’s world. His pride in them beams from his face whenever he discusses them. With teachers, missionaries, social workers, and musicians among his children and in-law children, it’s clear that Joe’s values of service and good-heartedness have born out in the next generation of the Galdo family.
Joe and I didn’t talk politics very much, but I did ask him how he’s different from a typical Republican candidate. “What is a typical Republican?” he challenged me. “That’s part of the problem with the dialogue these days—everyone has a perception about what a typical Republican or a typical Democrat is. Republicans are as concerned about other people as much as any ‘Democrat’ or ‘progressive’. We care about our communities, we care about people who are being left behind. We want to help everyone. We want to look at each person as someone who deserves the dignity God gave them as a person.”
He went on to explain why he’d decided to run for chairman of the board of supervisors now. “There’s a park a quarter of a mile up the street from us. Since our oldest son was eleven or twelve, we always wanted to walk up to that park. But there’s no sidewalk, so we had to walk in the street or drive. I called to ask the county if they could put a sidewalk in. They told me, ‘It’s in the plans to add two additional lanes and improve the road, so we’re not going to put a sidewalk in now when we’re about to do road improvements.’ It’s thirty-seven years later and nothing has happened. The county has forgotten about older neighborhoods and people who are here.”
I look forward to hearing more from Joe Galdo, and I look forward to him leading the Fairfax county board. He’s concerned about Fairfax’s untenable infrastructure, about the deleterious situation of schoolchildren being taught in trailers in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, and about taxes going up at twice the rate of inflation.
But those aren’t the primary things I like about Joe Galdo as a candidate, or as a person. I like him because his ethos reminds me of that of Nelson Mandela, who believed that “that even under unjust persecution, people should treat others with kindness and respect, that anything less was a failing of his own character” (Love Your Enemies, Arthur C. Brooks).
After a lifetime of hard work, service, and daily walking out the terms of his own noble character, Joe Galdo has proven himself both a gentleman and a statesman. I’m honored to know him.