Dan Leahy was a storyteller, teacher, organizer, traveler and writer. He contributed regularly to Works in Progress, where his political analysis and organizing work were reflected in articles about housing, local elections, traffic on neighborhood streets, oil companies and oil trains—and private developers and their role in government among other issues.
Most recently he organized residents across SW and NW Olympia to create a community vision for the Capital Mall Subarea Plan—in contrast to Olympia planners’ intent to transform a big part of the Westside. [Read the proposal signed by hundreds of neighbors.]
He had fun with his WIP press credentials, serving as our foreign correspondent, sending in stories about people demonstrating for political change from Mexico, Ireland, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey as he traveled in those countries.
When in 2010, the City of Olympia approved a 7-11 on a contested intersection in the heart of the Westside, Dan led a successful two-year effort that stopped the development and opened the way for a community park. He continued to track policies in Olympia’s City government, among other things investigating and publicizing the City’s grant of property tax subsidies for private developers to build “market rate” apartments. In 2021 he discovered that the City was seeking a developer for housing on a city-owned site. He enlisted the community in a successful effort in support of Habitat for Humanity sole nonprofit applicant, holding the city to its promise of affordable housing and home ownership for working families.
As an organizer, Dan’s strategy included a large measure of friendship and fun. In the context of his work in Mexico he revived the Battalion of San Patricio, a battalion of Irish soldiers who fought alongside Mexicans in the Mexican-American War. (See the story on this page.). Over last summer and fall, dozens of Dan’s students came to visit. Two of them created a website at DanLeahy.org where you can find all kinds of writing by and about Dan.