Hobson honors Barlow

Published 10:09 pm Monday, May 9, 2011

Robert Townsell, left, presents Lynn and Joe Barlow with a portrait of Barlow in recognition of his years of service on City Council.

Former Suffolk City Council member Joe Barlow was honored Saturday by some of his former constituents.

About 40 members of the community gathered at Macedonia Baptist Church’s fellowship hall to acclaim Barlow’s six years of service on City Council, as well as many years on the School Board and Planning Commission.

Michael Eaton compared Barlow to Moses.

Email newsletter signup

“We were stranded,” Eaton said. “When he came in, he was the leader that pulled us together.”

The event featured a meal and a special presentation of a portrait of Barlow done by local artist Robert LeMasters, who frequently teaches classes at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Barlow seemed embarrassed by all the attention, but he took it in stride.

“You really overdid it, but I didn’t see the use in trying to correct any of it,” he joked in his speech.

After serving on the Planning Commission and School Board, Barlow was then twice appointed to City Council before being elected. His first stint there was in 1998, when Chris Jones had been elected to the General Assembly and needed someone to fill his term.

Again in 2005, the Chuckatuck borough representative, Dana Dickens III, moved to the helm of the Hampton Roads Partnership and needed a fill-in.

“We said, ‘This is enough,’” Councilman Leroy Bennett of the Nansemond borough joked. “Ever since then, Joe has been serving well.”

“After being appointed twice and not being elected, I started to wonder if the people really wanted me,” Barlow quipped on Saturday.

Members of the community hailed him as an honest leader, someone who could answer the phone to a stranger’s call and be friends by the time they hung up.

“Whether it was 10 at night or 10 in the morning, it didn’t matter,” said John Thrower, a Hobson resident. “All that mattered to him was, ‘How can I help you?’ That’s the type of person he is. He’s been a mentor to me. I know what it is, now, to want to serve.”

Thrower also esteemed Barlow’s wife, Lynn.

“All of us know there’s an old saying, ‘Behind any great man is a good woman,’” Thrower said. “As we honor him today, Lynn, we honor you also.”

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn also attended the event after taking time out from family festivities. She said she believes Barlow had a lot to do with her promotion to city manager in 2008.

“I think because of Mr. Barlow and his belief in me, I was given that opportunity,” she said.

Even Chris Jones, whose election to higher office was the cause of Barlow’s first stint on council, honored his successor during the event.

“In life, if you live long enough, you get awards,” Jones said. “But today, what we’re seeing is a community honoring a public servant for what he had a passion for.”

Jones wrapped up by encouraging Barlow to take it easy in his retirement.

“Ride around the farm,” he said. “Don’t do any hard work.”