Barrar feted in Chadds Ford

Steve Barrar spent 30 years in public office, six as commissioner in Upper Chichester and 24 as the Republican state representative for Pennsylvania’s 160th Legislative District. Barrar retired after the last legislative session, and he told members of the Chadds Ford Republican Party Saturday afternoon that his time in office was the best job he ever had.

“I want to thank you for giving me a job that I got to do for 24 years, and I loved every single minute of it,” he told the 50 or so GOP members at a luncheon at Pescatores. “The journey has been incredible. I’ve made so many incredible friends.”

Steve Barrar addressing the party faithful at the Chadds Ford GOP luncheon at Pescatores Saturday. He said serving as state representative was the best job he ever had.

He gave a nod to township Republican leader Mary Kot with whom, he said, he hit it off right away after Chadds Ford became part of his district.

“I love Chadds Ford. It’s a great township

The Chadds Ford GOP’s luncheon was in honor of Barrar who has always been known for service to his constituents. Several residents shared experiences where Barrar stepped in to help.

Paul Koch told how Barrar was instrumental in getting PennDOT to clear red tape so Koch could improve the driveway’s safety at his home on Route 1.

Bruce Prabel told how Barrar prevented PECO from cutting down more than 100 trees on his property. Prabel’s home is by an easement with PECO towers and the utility wanted to clear the trees so as not to trim them repeatedly.

Prabel said Barrar went to the head of PECO, and after several meetings, PECO agreed to take only a few of the tallest trees, but plant more than 100 low-growth trees and bushes.

Mark Stookey, chairman of the Sewer Authority, gave credit to Barrar for improving the Turner’s Mill Wastewater Treatment Plant and for helping to decommission the Ridings plant.

Addressing the audience, Barrar gave credit for his ability to serve his constituency to his staff, from Beth Zenuck to Anne Iacona to Traci Plunkett. He said they were the ones who did the work and told him when they thought he was wrong.

But the former state rep would always show up for any event, usually with a state flag to present to a person or group being honored. But even without a flag, he would be there when needed.

As township tax collector Valerie Hoxter said, “He’ll show up if you’re opening your trunk.”

There was also a jab from former state Rep. Nick Miccarelli. He told a story about sharing “a flophouse” with Barrar, and another representative in Harrisburg.

“The room was furnished and had an old-fashioned clock radio. The first night I stayed at the house I was awakened around 4:30 in the morning to an awful rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Love on the Rocks.” So, I was ferociously hitting the clock radio hoping that it would stop until I realized it was Steve singing in the shower. Luckily for all of you, Steve was a much better state rep than a singer.”

The man who succeeded Barrar as the representative of the 160th is Craig Williams. He said following Barrar is a tough act to follow, but that his predecessor showed him the way.

State Rep. Craig Williams, who succeeded Barrar as the representative of the 160th, tells members of the Chadds Ford Republican Party that he often asks himself what Barrar would do in a similar situation.

When Williams received the endorsement from the party to run, Barrar said he would help on one condition.

“And this tells you all you need to know about Steve Barrar,” Williams said. “He said, ‘I’m going to give you my financial support, my political support and show you how to run a campaign but I want one thing, you’ve got to keep my staff.’ That’s the kind of public servant you had, worried about people.”

He went on to say he patterns his approach after Barrar’s, despite differences in personalities.

“We’re very different in a lot of ways. I post legislation in a different way than Steve did, but at the end of the day, it’s about people. That’s what I learned from Steve Barrar,” he said.

Williams said his own actions following last month’s flooding, of getting inside the damaged homes and businesses, were the actions that Barrar would have taken.

“That wasn’t my leadership style, that was his because this job is about people.”

Williams said he’s gotten two negative comments from people since taking office in January. People say he’s not Steve Barrar. But he turns that around and does what Barrar would do. He’d call the person to find out what the problem might be. That, he said, is what he learned from Barrar.

“I’m not Steve Barrar, but I’m serving in the likeness of Steve Barrar,” Williams said. “When I go to the office, I ask two things of myself in the morning, what do my people need — what leadership style do they require today — and what would Steve have done.”

After the speeches, Barrar reflected on his time in office and said the thing he regrets the most is giving into former Gov. Tom Ridge’s push for a $400 million stadium deal that put four professional sports stadiums — two each in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He said the owners should have built those stadiums, not the taxpayers.

At the same time, he said he’s most proud of the work he did in bringing awareness of problems faced by veterans, National Guard members, and first responders. He said post-traumatic stress is killing more first responders than online duty deaths.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done with veterans, to give them increased and added benefits such as the expansion of their college benefits if they re-enlist and that they can pass on to their children.”

And while his life as an elected officeholder is done, he hopes to continue helping the National Guard by doing some pro bono lobbying for the Guard.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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