Barlow ready for a repeat

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 30, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

Wednesday will be a repeat performance for Joseph H. Barlow, who will be sworn in as the newest member of the Suffolk City Council.

On Jan. 24, council members unanimously selected the semi-retired farmer and longtime community leader from among 11 applicants to fulfill the remaining 18 months of former Councilman E. Dana Dickens III’s term. Dickens resigned earlier this month to become the chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Partnership, an economic development alliance committed to facilitating new growth opportunities for the region.

Email newsletter signup

Barlow was also tapped to complete the unexpired term of former councilman and state Del. S. Chris Jones in 1998, when Jones was first elected to General Assembly.

Barlow, 76, has a long history of service in the community, most recently as a member of the Suffolk Planning Commission. He also spent 15 years on the Suffolk School Board.

Barlow has served in state leadership roles since the 1960s, when the late Gov. Mills E. Godwin appointed him to the Virginia Pork Industry Commission.

Every governor since has named Barlow to multiple state boards and task forces, including the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and

Virginia Peanut Growers Association.

After learning of Dickens’ decision to step down, Barlow decided to toss his name into the hat to represent the 9,000 residents in the city’s Chuckatuck borough.

&uot;I believe I can help the city,&uot; Barlow said. &uot;I have a lot of experience in government…and agriculture.

&uot;There is still a lot of agricultural space in Suffolk. I believe the city’s agricultural community…ought to be represented on council.&uot;

Barlow will be sworn into office during a special ceremony in the Municipal Building at 3 p.m. Wednesday, just an hour before his first council work session.

Over the past week, City Manager R. Steven Herbert has been bringing Barlow up to date on issues facing the city, said Mayor Bobby L. Ralph.

Barlow says he looking

forward to the next 18 months.

&uot;There are a lot of things going on in Suffolk right now,&uot; Barlow said. &uot;Some controversial, some good and some not so good.&uot;

Perhaps the most important issue is the pending decision over whether Suffolk should take over more than 1,400 miles of state-maintained roads from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

&uot;That’s the most urgent issue before council,&uot; Barlow said, adding he still has questions about the proposal.

&uot;My biggest concern is the expense side of it,&uot; he continued. &uot;My question is how much is it going to cost us to do it?&uot;

Also, Barlow said, VDOT has a level of expertise and manpower that the city doesn’t have instantly available.

The other major issue before city council is the revision to the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the master plan for the city’s growth for the next two decades. The state requires the plan, cutting edge and somewhat controversial when the Suffolk adopted it, to be updated every five years.

‘The comprehensive plan has had a lot of critics,&uot; said Barlow. &uot;But overall, it’s been good for the city.&uot;

Like any major new document, the comprehensive plan has had occasional flaws emerge during its first years in use, Barlow said. City planners and lawmakers have amended the document to rectify problems as they appeared, he said.

Barlow said he would not rule out running for the Chuckatuck seat in May 2006.

&uot;If I think I can help, I will consider it,&uot; Barlow said.

City lawmakers and citizens alike are applauding Barlow’s appointment.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said he has received several calls from Chuckatuck borough residents praising the council’s selection.

&uot;Most said we (council members) made a wise decision. I think the people of the Chuckatuck borough like and respect Joe.&uot;

Suffolk farmer Tommy Rountree agreed, saying he believes Barlow is a strong, effective leader.

&uot;I’m certainly glad Joe is on council. He is an outstanding citizen and man…and a great leader,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;He guides with a calm, steady hand. Even when things get upset, he keeps a steady, focused outlook.&uot;

Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson said Barlow’s years of public service give him a &uot;huge…recognition factor&uot; in Chuckatuck and across the city.

With Barlow’s experience, the transition onto council should be seamless, she said.

&uot;He’s done a lot of community and public service over the years,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;It took me a long time to understand the true dynamics of council workings.

&uot;But I think he probably has a pretty good feel for it already.&uot;

Barlow’s familiarity with the city’s issues, goals and vision will benefit all concerned, added


&uot;Knowing the issues as he comes on board is going to help a lot,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;Joe is a team player who thinks for himself. He knows the city and its needs.&uot;

Ralph agreed.

&uot;Joe Barlow is a man that is loyal and committed to city of Suffolk in all aspects,&uot; he said. &uot;We are fortunate we have a person with his knowledge who stays abreast of current city issues.

&uot;We’ve selected the right person for the job.&uot;