Dr. George Barnett actively seeking people, businesses to strengthen Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

There’s strength in numbers.

That is a core philosophy with which Dr. George H. Barnett, retired dentist, former mayor and city lawmaker, is approaching his newest civic leadership role: Chairman of the Suffolk division of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

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Barnett, 80, is planning to aggressively grow membership in the local chamber division over the next year.

&uot;There are a number of businesses and professionals in this city who don’t belong to the Chamber of Commerce,&uot; Barnett said. &uot;Those individuals (through chamber membership) could contribute so much knowledge and expertise toward the future of our city.

&uot;…They would be a part of the projects that are important to improving conditions in Suffolk: quality of life, transportation, economic development,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s what we’re all about.&uot;

Throughout the coming year, Barnett said, the chamber will be making a concerted effort to contact these individuals and make them aware of the advantages that come with chamber membership.

He also wants the chamber to take a more active role in marketing the city to prospective businesses this year.

&uot;We want to find out how the chamber can best assist the council and the city in its economic development efforts,&uot; Barnett said. He will be recommending that representatives from the chamber and city meet monthly or quarterly to map out ways the organization could most effectively help the city.

&uot;The chamber has a place in promoting and advancing the good things about our city,&uot; Barnett said. &uot;We would like the opportunity to become more involved in the process.

&uot;Working on our goals of mutual interest would assist each organization is accomplishing its individual goals.&uot;

The chamber is just one of more than a dozen boards and committees devoted to improving life in Suffolk that Barnett serves on.

He chairs the task force for the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts and serves on the boards of directors of several organizations: Suffolk Fairgrounds Committee, SuffolkFirst Bank, Future Hampton Roads and Suffolk Tomorrow, to name a few.

As a charter member and chairman of Suffolk Tomorrow, Barnett also initiated the city’s first Suffolk Leadership Academy five years ago. The program brings in local corporate executives, city government officials and constitutional officers to speak to participants.

&uot;We try to provide them with the knowledge of what it takes to be successful and how to overcome the challenges they will face,&uot; he said. &uot;We want them to have the tools to become successful, active citizens who will work to make their community a better place.&uot;

Name? George H. Barnett.

Age? 80.

Hometown? Suffolk.

Family? Married to Maxine E. Barnett since 1946. We have three children – Gloria B. Barrett, G. Harden Barnett Jr. and Glenn E. Barnett; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Education? Suffolk High School, 1941; Virginia Military Institute, 1941-1943; and Medical College of Virginia’s School of Dentistry, 1949.

Career/occupation? Dentist (retired in 1989 after 39 years in practice) and president of two family-owned companies, Barnett Rentals and Elbar Inc.

Volunteer activities? Belong to and/or serve on several organizations, committees and boards that work to make Suffolk a better place to live. Organizations include president, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce; chairman, Suffolk Tomorrow; task force director, Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts; the Suffolk Fairgrounds Committee; Suffolk Art League; and the Suffolk Historical Society.

Favorite thing about Suffolk? Participating in civic affairs and things that will help our city grow in an orderly and controlled manner.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I always had a desire to go into dentistry or medicine. By the time I was discharged from the military in 1943, I had decided that I would prefer dental school.

Favorite thing about your job? I loved working with people.

Least favorite thing about your job? I never woke up and didn’t want to go to work. I can honestly say I enjoyed every day I got up and went to work. If I could do it all over, there is nothing I would change.

What accomplishments are you proudest of? I’m proudest of my wife and my three children. They are loving, dedicated kids …who are good to their mother and father.

I’m also proud of having been selected as First Citizen of Suffolk in 1987 and having been elected mayor and Suffolk City Council member by my fellow council members and citizens respectively. I’m also proud that I’m fortunate enough to be 80 years old and not to have to take any prescription medications. That’s unbelievable; of course, I’ll probably fall flat on my face tomorrow.

Who or what motivates and inspires you? Seeing other people succeed.

Favorite way to spend free time? Going out for a nice, relaxing dinner with my wife.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? Think success, think positive, accept responsibility for your actions and share your knowledge with others.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Always remain active and involved with people and organizations in the community. Being involved with people is my life. I enjoy meeting and seeing people and like to stay informed on what is going on in the community.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? I’d like to spend my time with an organization whose purpose is promoting the best interests of our city.