Those who worked with Barry Jarrett describe him as a quiet leader and a man who deeply loved the city of Milledgeville and its people.
Jarrett, who began his career with the city as water works director and later became city manager, collapsed at his home on Lakeview Circle and later died Sunday night.
Jarrett began his career with the city on May 2, 1988, as water and sewer director. In October 2009, Jarrett was appointed interim city manager while also still overseeing the city’s water and sewer departments as director. In February 2011, Jarrett was hired full-time as city manager. Jarrett continued serving in the capacity of director of the city’s water and sewer service until nearly his retirement from the city on Aug. 1, 2019.
“I think Mr. Jarrett was a quiet leader,” said current City Manager Hank Griffeth, who worked under Jarrett for five years as city planner.
Griffeth said he could not recall an instance where he ever saw Jarrett lose his temper.
“He was always pretty even-keeled,” Griffeth told The Union-Recorder during a Monday morning interview.
From an emotional standpoint, Jarrett never came across as too low or too high.
And that’s how he ran the city on a day-to-day basis.
“He just always seemed to be able to keep things flowing smoothly,” Griffeth said. “And I think that’s because when there was a high or low, he grabbed it quickly and brought it back to the middle. He always seemed to work very well with the mayor and council.”
Griffeth was one of the first people to learn of Jarrett’s collapse at his home through his work as a volunteer firefighter/first responder with Baldwin County Fire Rescue.
Griffeth received a pager alert to a medical call about 10:15 p.m. Sunday.
“When I heard the address, I immediately knew who lived there,” Griffeth said. “As a volunteer, I most likely would have gone anyway, but once I knew whose residence it was, it became extremely important for me to be there, not only for Barry but to be there for Jeanie, too.”
Jeanie Jarrett was Barry Jarrett’s wife and his constant companion. She has owned Flowers by Jeanie on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milledgeville for many years.
After falling at his home, Jarrett was treated at his home by firefighters/first responders and personnel with Grady Emergency Medical Services. He was later taken from his residence to Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin hospital in Milledgeville.
Griffeth said he sent a text to Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan and each of the six members of city council to let them know about the situation Sunday night.
Griffeth said he also sent a text to Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord.
“I knew Chief Swicord would want to know,” Griffeth said, noting that the police chief went to the hospital to comfort the Jarrett family.
The relationship between Jarrett and Swicord dates back several years.
It goes back before Jarrett appointed Swicord as the city’s police chief back in 2012.
“He was a great boss and a great friend to me,” Swicord said Monday afternoon. “When he was my boss, we spoke every day.”
Even after Jarrett retired, Swicord said they remained friends.
“We stayed in contact with each other over the telephone,” Swicord said. “I saw him in person on a couple of occasions since he retired.”
Swicord said he would always remember Jarrett as being fair.
“He was so consistently fair with everybody,” Swicord said. “Whatever he said, he meant, and he stood by it. That was probably the biggest thing that carried over with me about him.”
Swicord called Jarrett a genuine person.
“He’s going to be really missed in this community,” Swicord said.
From a personal standpoint, Griffeth said Jarrett will be remembered as a leader and that anytime the city was experiencing a difficult situation, Jarrett tried to handle it before it got too big or blown out of proportion.
Under Jarrett’s leadership, the city accomplished several projects, including the renovation of the city council chambers and work session meeting room at City Hall.
He also oversaw the renovations of two government buildings adjacent to City Hall in downtown Milledgeville.
Another project that Jarrett put much time into was the plan for the new water plant.
“I think he probably would have liked to have seen that through fruition, but for some reason, he chose to retire prior to that time,” Griffeth said. “Obviously, water and sewer was what he cut his city teeth on, so to speak. He knew that world, and I think that area was near and dear to him.”
Tears filled the eyes of Mervin Graham, director of human resources for the City of Milledgeville when she got to work Monday morning and learned of the passing of her former boss.
“He was always nice and very easy to work with,” Graham recalled. “He was always available to talk with and always made time for his staff. Whatever the situation, he always made time for you as a staff member.”
Graham, who has been with the city for nearly 26 years, said she thought that was one of Jarrett’s special qualities as city manager.
Arrangements by Slater’s Funeral Home in Milledgeville remained incomplete Monday afternoon.