George Barber, who served on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors for 24 years until leaving in 1998, died Friday morning. He was 75.
Barber died of a blood clot at his Thornton home, according to his niece, Lori Blix-Remington of Stockton.
Barber was elected supervisor in 1974 and continued until 1998, when he was forced out by term limits. For most of his career on the Board of Supervisors, term limits were not in effect. Now, supervisors are limited to two four-year terms.
“George will be a great loss to the county,” retired Public Works Director Tom Flinn said. “He was a good team builder. I very seldom saw conflict on the board.”
Flinn credited Barber with working hard to bring water to the county and showing good fiscal discipline.
In a 2008 News-Sentinel interview, Barber said his greatest accomplishments during his tenure on the Board of Supervisors included the first renovation of the historic schoolhouse in Lockeford on Jack Tone Road (a second renovation took place a few years ago), a new library for Thornton, library expansion in Linden and consolidation of some small water districts in Morada.
Even though he had been out of office for a decade at the time, Barber said the county hadn’t changed a lot since he spent his last meeting as supervisor. San Joaqin County continues to face a lack of funding, with the state passing its expenses to the counties.
A sixth-generation county resident, Barber lived his entire life in the same house on the banks of the Mokelumne River in the north end of Thornton, Blix-Remington said. He was also the fourth generation in his family to serve in public office.
Barber was the third member of his family to be named George Barber. His grandfather and great-grandfather were also named George Barber.
Since leaving office, Barber continued to oversee the 200 head of cattle on his Thornton ranch, just across the Mokelumne River from the Cosumnes River Preserve. He traveled to Europe and Asia, and he served 10 years on the Lodi Grape Festival board. He was the board’s president as recently as 2008.
“He was officially on (the) Grape Festival board 10 years. But when he was supervisor, he was always like an ex-official member on the board,” said Grape Festival Manager Mark Armstrong.
“There’s no question that George was a true gentleman,” Armstrong said. “When he said he was going to do something, he did it. We’re going to miss him.”
Barber once said he became active with the Grape Festival because it provides an opportunity to showcase the community from an agricultural point of view.
Although he never had any children, Barber was a very strong father figure to her and her sister after their father died 15 years ago, Blix-Remington said.
Barber enjoyed traveling, having made several excursions to Europe and Asia.
Barber continued to be re-elected to the Board of Supervisors despite a controversial incident that took place in 1983. Barber let a man, who went by Kevin Dean Johnson and Robert Miliazzo, stay at his Thornton ranch, but the guest ended up stealing a county-issued car and credit card. Johnson, or Miliazzo, was sentenced to 150 days in jail.
Upon his release, an investigator from the county District Attorney’s Office stirred controversy after meeting Barber’s guest when he was released from jail. The investigator drove him to San Francisco in a county-owned car and gave him $250 cash.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.