Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard compliments the work of former Chairman Gil Barrett, center, as MCLB Commanding Officer Col. Terry Williams looks on in this photo from a May ceremony at the Dougherty County landfill. Barrett, 87, died Sunday morning.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Gil Barrett, whose 40 years of service on the Dougherty County Commission left an indelible mark on the community he loved, died Sunday at his home after a lengthy illness. He was 87 years old.
Albany and Dougherty County leaders on Monday praised Barrett, who was presented the first key to Dougherty County at his last public appearance three months ago, as a visionary and a pioneer.
"Whether it was transportation, garbage or water issues, Mr. Barrett was one of the first people to think about the things that no one in Southwest Georgia was thinking about at that time," current Dougherty Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said Monday. "He knew there would be fallout from some of the positions he was willing to take, but he was willing to stand up for what he believed was the greater good.
"Mr. Barrett was always one of those guys who walked the walk. Albany truly lost a patriot Sunday."
Barrett's daughters, Ginny Morehead of Tulsa, Okla., and Becky Barrett of Albany, met Monday afternoon with officials at Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors to make funeral arrangements. Morehead said her father left a lasting legacy in his hometown.
"My sister Becky and I were so fortunate to have our dad and mom as parents," Morehead said. "They both leave a wonderful legacy in this community. It was just daddy's time, and now he's with mama again.
"Our family appreciates very much the kind thoughts and prayers, the community support that everyone's shown since dad became ill. It meant the world to him, and it means the world to his family."
Gilbert M. Barrett was born in Albany on March 1, 1923. He graduated from Albany High School and later attended Auburn University. He served in the 244th Airborne Engineer Battalion during World War II, seeing action in the European Theater. He returned home after the war and farmed in Dougherty and Lee counties for most of his life.
Barrett was first elected to the Dougherty County Commission in 1958, and he served on that board for the next 40 years. He was elected commission chairman in 1978 and held that position until he retired in 1998.
President Reagan appointed Barrett to the federal Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in 1982 and in 1985, one of only three county commissioners in the nation to receive such appointments, and President Ford appointed Barrett to the Federal Commission on Paperwork in 1975.
Barrett was also elected president of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia in 1981.
The Georgia Department of Transportation honored Barrett, who had testified before both houses of Congress on road construction, by naming a portion of State Route 234 from Slappey Drive to the Calhoun County line for him in 1998, and the emergency room/trauma center at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital was also named to honor Barrett in 1997.
Sinyard presented Barrett with the first key to the county in May for his role in making the county's landfill gas project a reality.
"Gil thought that landfill was one of the greatest things ever in Dougherty County, and time has proved him right," current County Commissioner Jack Stone, who served 16 years on that body with Barrett, said Monday. "That's one thing about Gil: He always tried to do what was right for Dougherty County. If nothing else, he loved this community.
"We sat together at the ceremony for the landfill, and he told me one of the things he missed most was the boiled peanuts I used to bring him. We're going to miss Gil; he was a man of his word. We didn't always see eye-to-eye, but it never affected our friendship. When all was said and done, we'd shake hands and move on."
Albany Mayor Willie Adams said Barrett and his late wife, Alice, were among Adams and his wife Connie's personal friends.
"Gil Barrett was just one of those quality people, and Albany and Dougherty County were blessed to have him in a leadership role," Adams said. "He made so many contributions to this community, and I think his bond with the Marine (Corps Logistics) Base is one of the most important things that helped us get through BRAC (the federal government's Base Realignment and Closure process).
"Probably more than any other leader in this community, Gil Barrett spent more of his own money and finances to try and make it better. This county, this city and this state will miss Gil Barrett."
Barrett is survived by Morehead and Becky Barrett; by his four grandchildren, Byne O'Lear, Gil Salemi, Mollie Morehead and Jacob Morehead; and by his two great-grandchildren, Ryan and Hannah O'Lear.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Teresa's Catholic Church, where Barrett was a lifetime member, with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery. The family will receive friends at Kimbrell-Stern Wednesday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.