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Barnes ends 40+ years of service to Obion County

Barnes ends 40+ years of service to Obion County

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 10:40 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

  By JOHN BRANNON

Messenger Staff Reporter

For about 45 minutes earlier this week, Obion County commissioner Robert M. Barnes was in his glory.

With a zest and humor that cannot be captured and conveyed in a mere newspaper report, he told story after story.

And the crowd loved it.

He used material gleaned from 40 years in public service to his county.

Each story told — he told them wonderfully, as though much practiced at the craft — paved the way for yet another.

Finally, he paused, looked to his left and said in a quiet voice, “Is that enough?” Several heads nodded a polite yes.

Time and place: About 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Circuit Court courtroom at the Obion County Courthouse.

The occasion: A regular meeting of the Obion County Commission, commissioner Ralph Puckett presiding.

Earlier that morning, the commission had formally accepted Barnes’ resignation, submitted for health reasons, and appointed Kenneth Barnes to serve out his father’s term, which expires in August 2010.

Also, earlier that morning, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire had declared the day Robert M. Barnes Day and presented Barnes with a plaque in recognition of 40 years’ service on the county commission.

Then, after processing other public business, Puckett paused and said, “The floor is yours, Mr. Robert.”

With that nod, the venerable sage — he was born Nov. 30, 1933 — stood and walked to a podium set up at center stage, swept the room with his eyes and began an impromptu farewell speech.

With family and friends and commission peers watching in heavy silence, the occasion had the potential of being an emotional moment. But Barnes turned the tables.

His first utterings set the tone and pace for the occasion.

He said he’d been working on what he’d say and had ended up with a four-hour speech. He grinned and added, “But I might make one that’s a little shorter.”

Time and again, the audience responded with wide smiles, nodding heads and spontaneus laughter.

At one point, he gave special recognition to his wife, Sue, who is not only his soul mate but his friend and helpmeet. He said he was two or three days shy of his 18th birthday when he married her on Nov. 21, 1951. “I used to say she was 16 when we married. But she wasn’t. She was 15 and a half. I’ll give her full credit,” he said.

And so it went …

Candid comments

Later, in an interview with The Messenger, Barnes admitted his attending his last county commission meeting in an official capacity was indeed an emotional moment.

“Any time you’ve been doing something 40 years and you come to the end, it’s an emotional moment,” he said.

He reminiscenced about his years of service. He was first elected to office in 1965. “What’s the toughest issue in all those years? I don’t know. There’s been a bunch of them,” he said.

Barnes said anyone who thinks they can come in fresh and be a county commissioner in a year is mistaken.

“It takes a while to settle in,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough that I know something’s coming. I can see it coming long before it gets here.”

And in the spirit of a soothsayer, he read the tea leaves for those still serving on the commission. “This (commission) is going to have to make some tough choices within just a few years,” he said.

Plaque presented

The plaque presented to Barnes by McGuire reads, “To Robert M. Barnes, in honor of his 40 years of dedicated service from 1965 to 2008 on the Obion County Commission.”

McGuire said that in his time, Barnes also served on the budget committee, the agricultural committee, the highway commission and the beer board. 

“For the last 40 years, the county has been very fortunate to have a person like Robert M. Barnes in its service. We will greatly miss him,” McGuire said. “The county commission and the taxpayers will miss him. He believed in low taxes and good service for the people.”

Other business

In other action at its Monday meeting, the commission also accepted the resignation of commissioner Cloney Taylor, who represented District 2. Taylor is moving out of the district.

The commission appointed Dean Jowers as his successor to serve out his term.

Barnes’ and Taylor’s resignations are effective Nov. 30.
Published in The Messenger 11.20.08

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