Published 8:38 pm Saturday, January 22, 2011
At the beginning of what everyone knew would be a long meeting, Suffolk City Council members took time Wednesday to heap praise on one of their own.
Recently retired Chuckatuck representative Joe Barlow took it all in stride.
“This is unusual for me to be on this side of the podium,” Barlow joked in Council chambers after viewing a video presentation of his life history and legacy of service.
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Barlow recently stepped down from the post by declining to stand for election, in favor of two candidates he considered well-qualified.
The self-employed farmer moved to Suffolk in 1959 and didn’t take long to start his public service career. Through the years, he served on the Suffolk Planning Commission, the Suffolk School Board and as chairman of Suffolk Tomorrow. He also served on the Western Tidewater Water Authority, numerous agriculture industry boards and was named Suffolk’s First Citizen by the Suffolk Rotary Club.
He was first appointed to City Council on Jan. 14, 1998 and served until June 30 of that year. The short appointment filled out a term vacated by Chris Jones after his election to the Virginia General Assembly.
Again in 2005, Barlow answered the call to serve when he filled out another term, this one left empty by Dana Dickens III when he left to become president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Partnership.
In 2006, Barlow finally sought election to the City Council where he had twice been appointed. He netted an easy victory over two other contenders, garnering more than 45 percent of the vote.
Since then, Barlow has built a legacy that was easily distinguishable Wednesday night. His former colleagues repeatedly used words like “honesty,” “integrity” and “dedication” to describe his work on City Council. They then unanimously passed a resolution honoring him and later in the night even appointed him to a couple of boards and commissions.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Barlow said.
The video featured photographs dredged up by family members and from news sources, picturing Barlow as a young boy, at an event earlier this month and everywhere in between. His college days at Virginia Tech also were heavily featured.
After the video was over, City Council members gave effusive praise to Barlow’s service and dedication.
“Unfortunately for me, he has set the bar awfully high,” joked Councilman Michael Duman, the winner of the race to replace Barlow.
Councilman Leroy Bennett said he had Barlow had been friends for many years.
“You have made me very proud to work with you,” Bennett said. “You were very dedicated, you were honest and you had integrity.”
Vice Mayor Charles Brown and Councilman Curtis Milteer both called Barlow a great leader.
Mayor Linda T. Johnson topped it off with this sentence: “I truly believe that we are all better for having served with you.”
Barlow hasn’t fully retired, however — he still will work the land on his farm in Chuckatuck.