Shari Barr, seeking the District 5 seat on Statesboro City Council, relates her preference for monitored and managed growth to “green” concerns for the environment but suggests she would be a fiscal conservative in regard to city spending.
She is challenging current council member Derek Duke, who won a partial term in a spring 2018 special election.
“Somebody might would choose me because I've been here a long time and know a lot of people,” Barr said. “I've a long-time investment in Bulloch County and in Statesboro and in different organizations and groups here. ...
“They might identify with my environmentalism,” she added. “I'm really in favor of growth but monitoring and managing growth so we don't damage the quality of life we enjoy here. I mean, growth just for growth's sake is not a fantasy that can go on forever, and so we need to manage it so that we're not destroying resources for short-term gain.”
The S&S Greenway, a linear-park trail that extends through part of District 5, is one area Barr said she is “a little bit concerned about how much growth is going up around it, how green can we keep it if we keep allowing more and more building out there.”
A campaign handbill she is distributes tags her as a “supporter of green initiatives,” “committed to collaboration,” but also as a “fiscal conservative.”
“I drive a car that’s 12 years old and a lot of my clothes are that old, so I don’t spend money freely, so I can identify with conservatives on being careful with city resources,” Barr said.
Now 70, she grew up in Screven, Bulloch and Burke counties, graduated from Statesboro High School in 1967 and has remained a Statesboro resident for all but about seven years since. Barr continued her education at Georgia Southern but did not complete a degree. However, she has worked as a home-based field researcher for the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research for the past 30 years.
She was married to Rick Barr, an Air Force veteran, for 39 years, until his death in 2016. They raised their three daughters here and have four grandchildren.
Four people Shari Barr respects a lot, on different occasions, asked her to seriously consider running for council, she said. She then went through a “process of discernment,” talking to people who currently serve in public office, others who have run and people in positions to know what was involved in the job.
One of those was former City Clerk Sue Starling, who recently retired.
“And I was shocked whenever she told me that we have never elected a woman to represent any district in Statesboro, that no district has ever sent a woman to the council to represent them. …,” Barr said. “What it came down to at the end was if not me then who, if not now, then when?”
Barr has attended all of the council’s open sessions during the last six weeks, including the work session where a staff recommendation on the public transit plan was presented.
“I am very pleased with what the engineering department recommended and the direction the city appears to be taking at this point with that third option, which is the fixed route…,” Barr said. “I agree that’s the best way to go, because if you just have on-call, like a taxi service, you’re not going to really build up the ridership and get the usage from it, you’re not going to serve the citizens as well.
“So I’m pleased with what they’re talking about,” she said. “I hope that’s going to work out.”
Parks & Rec
Barr “would love to see more opportunities for recreation for city residents who can’t travel out to Mill Creek (Regional Park).”
“So yes, I am interested in the city accepting more responsibility to work with the county to ensure city residents are well served,” she said.
Both District 5 candidates mentioned the June murder of James Mikell Jr., 16, at Luetta Moore Park as linking concerns for parks and public safety.
“I was very distressed to learn, the night the young man was shot … that the streetlights were not on, the park lights were turned off for some reason,” Barr said. “ So that’s a safety concern, and I don’t know where that responsibility falls, but I’m glad that it has come to light now, that more people have been made aware of it … and I’m trusting that that has been remedied, for safety reasons and just so we get extended use of the parks.”
In answering whether Statesboro is a safe community and what could make it safer, both candidates mentioned Chief Mike Broadhead of the Statesboro Police Department.
“Yes, I believe the city of Statesboro is safe,” Barr said. “I’ve had occasion to work with Chief Broadhead and some the staff over there through our Bulloch Beloved Community workshops and am very pleased with the caliber of officers we have and with their commitment to training.”
Beloved Community is an ongoing project of volunteers to promote nonjudgmental discussion of community concerns. Some sessions have focused on police and community interactions.
“De-escalation techniques training is something I’m glad they (SPD officers) see the value in, because when someone goes in with the training to try to de-escalate a situation, fewer people get hurt,” Barr said. “So I’m very pleased to see that they are open to that and pursuing it.”
Leaders of the Creek on the Blue Mile project recently gave the three non-incumbent council candidates, in Districts 2, 3 and 5, a presentation on the plan. Barr notes that the project grew out of a volunteer-led vision to revitalize South Main Street, the Blue Mile Plan that won a $1 million America’s Best Communities prize. The state has now backed the creek project with a $5.5 million grant and $15.5 million line of credit.
“The starting place is that we have this problem with flooding – Statesboro’s in a flood plain, parts of it – so these ditches are dealing with it now, minimally, but this is a way to better control those ditches, to change out from our ditch system of draining excess water, to having a linear park, a pretty canal that you can build nice things alongside, so it sounds wonderful,” Barr said.