Editor's note: The News-Sentinel plans to catch up with a number of former local public figures who are no longer in the public eye. We'll find out what's happened to them since they retired from either public office or other leadership positions. Today's we'll catch up with former San Joaquin County Supervisor George Barber.
THORNTON - George Barber says that his family is somewhat of a political dynasty in San Joaquin County and in Galt.
His grandfather was George Barber; so was his great-grandfather. His father and uncle also held public office.
And so did the most recent Thornton resident to name himself George Barber. This one spent 24 years on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in the days before term limits held supervisors to a pair of four-year terms. He retired from the board in 1998.
Since leaving office, Barber continues to oversee the 200 head of cattle on his Thornton ranch, just across the Mokelumne River from the Cosumnes River Preserve.
Barber's traveled to Europe and Asia, and this year, he plans to visit Denmark, Berlin, Estonia, Norway, Sweden and St. Petersburg, Russia.
He's president of the Lodi Grape Festival.
Born in Lodi on Aug. 17, 1935, Barber has lived on the family ranch his entire life. He attended New Hope School in Thornton, graduated from Galt High in 1953 and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts at California State University, Sacramento.
"I was in Sac State's first freshman class," he said. "They had only about 400 students."
Barber was 25 years old when he was elected to the New Hope School board, a post he held for 12 years. He then was a trustee at San Joaquin Delta College for almost eight years. For some of the time, he was on the Delta and New Hope boards concurrently.
Barber was elected to the Board of Supervisors for the first time in 1974.
- George Barber (great-grandfather): Constable of what was then known as Union Township, which covered Thornton south to about Highway 12. He also was a New Hope School trustee and justice of the peace.
- George Barber (grandfather): New Hope School trustee, founding director of the county Farm Bureau.
- Jim Barber (father): Constable and Galt Joint Union High School District board member.
- Ed Barber (uncle): Galt High School board member for about 30
One would think the county would change dramatically over a 24-year period, but it seems that it isn't much different now than it was he first joined the board.
"The problem then and the problem now is how to fund local government," Barber said, referring to continuing state cutbacks that must be left on the county's shoulders.
Another example: San Joaquin General Hospital, which was $15 million in debt in 1974. The county hired consultants to get the hospital back on firm financial footing at the time, Barber said. But this year, the county-run hospital was $32 million in debt until the current Board of Supervisors bailed out the hospital by rearranging the county budget. But county officials still haven't determined how to keep the hospital out of debt in future years.
Some of the major accomplishments Barber cited during his tenure on the Board of supervisors was the first renovation of the historic schoolhouse in Lockeford (it's undergoing a second renovation now), a new library for Thornton, library expansion in Linden and consolidating some small water districts in Morada.
Barber also served on the Thornton Chamber of Commerce board for 24 years and the San Joaquin County chamber for two years.
Barber is single with no children. He has a sister in Stockton, a cousin who farms on his property and two nieces. In addition to being president of the Grape Festival, he has served 30 years with the Lodi Lions Club and serves on the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federations's Water Committee.