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An observer of life: Barr shares love of local people, resources
Barr
Shari Barr - photo by Scott Bryant

Shari Barr, who serves District 5 on Statesboro’s City Council, is from a large family, and spent the first decade of her life in Screven County. She graduated from Statesboro High School in 1967 in a class that was the first to include black students. 

After a brief time at Georgia Southern, Barr traveled as a sales agent, but came home to care for her eldest daughter, a baby in fragile health at the time. She still lives in the same house in Statesboro that became her home in 1981.

Barr is a field interviewer, mostly through the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. She interviews people in their homes and offices, which she says gives her a privileged look into the lives of all sorts of people. 

“When my husband, Rick Barr, retired from his full-time career at First District RESA in 2009, he continued his seasonal work as an income tax preparer with H&R Block, and I cut back my work to one research project, which ran from January to May each year, so we could be full-time retirees together for the rest of the year, with more time for travel and family,” Barr said. She added that after she decided to run for City Council, she retired from that final project as well, so the city of Statesboro is her only employer now.

Barr says she prefers to be an observer of life, and didn’t anticipate running for office. But she was often approached by people she respects who encouraged her to run. 

“I decided that the universe was nudging me,” she said. “I researched the position and learned that a woman had never been elected from any district to represent them at City Hall, which shocked me. Then I saw Melinda Gates’ PSA about how, at the current rate of change, it will take another 208 years to accomplish gender equity, which felt like another nudge. I really enjoyed campaigning and met with much gratifying, positive response.  I was disappointed with the low turn-out of voters, and I appreciate those who did vote.”

Barr didn’t run for office based on issues. She says that instead, she wanted to add a voice at the table, “…of one who had lived life as a woman and speaks from that experience.”

“Little did I anticipate women would become the majority voice,” she said.

Barr says that people in her district need what people all over Statesboro need — opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to grow and serve the greater good.

“I think we all want to know that what we do matters, and that we can trust ourselves and one another to work together for the good of all,” she said. 

Barr comes to the table a conservative, fiscally responsible woman who is socially progressive. 

“I am thrifty, personally, and try to be a good steward of the city’s resources, financial and otherwise. I bring the perspective of a 70-year-old woman with a long history here and a broad appreciation of the wonderful diversity of our people,” she said. 

The current pandemic is on everyone’s minds, and Barr is no different. She says it’s hard to imagine the long-term effects of COVID-19. She says her best guess is that we will continue to grow more slowly and, hopefully, wisely, over the next decade. 

“I hope we continue to grow in our understanding of what a strength our diversity is. I hope we can accept and appreciate one another, whatever our socioeconomic status, while also providing paths for residents to improve their economic prospects,” she said. 

Barr believes the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement are the two largest issues the community has faced this year, and she welcomed the opportunity to stand in solidarity with friends and strangers of every ethnicity who call for racial justice.

“I was pleased to participate in local peaceful demonstrations, and am glad to be on City Council, where I may have some opportunities to help affect improvements in outcomes,” she said.

As for COVID-19, Barr says like everyone else, she is simply working toward a “new normal,” while acknowledging her own justified sadness, anger and fear, as well as that of others. 

Barr says she isn’t sure whether she will run for re-election, but for the time being, she is glad to serve. 

“Most people I encounter are patient with my missteps and appreciative of my efforts, so the work is gratifying.  It has been pleasant that the title affords me greater access to other local decision makers, which enhances my ability to support and advance projects important to me.  So, I will wait to see where the universe might nudge me in the future,” she said.

Barr, a devoted vegan, is a widow, and says her primary relationships now are as grandmother of four, mother of three daughters, and sibling to three sisters and one brother. 

“I am blessed with amazing friends (and family), and am glad to connect with many of them through social media and/or texting, while gathering in person still presents such safety concerns,” she said. 

In her spare time, Barr enjoys photography, and recycles. She has been working to replace her front lawn with native plants, which will welcome birds and bees. She is also the pastoral care associate at her church, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro. She meditates regularly, and practices Yoga and Tai Chi, and enjoys giving back to the community through Bulloch County Beloved Community and Squashing the Spread, as well as the COVID-19 Task Force, organized by the city and county jointly. 

Barr says the number and variety of people in the Boro “make us wonderful,” and that when she was growing up, Statesboro felt more progressive and richer in resources and opportunities. This still holds true for her today. 

“I find Statesboro to be the perfect size town for me. I am glad to have raised my daughters here,” she said. “We are a big beautiful county with a variety of land forms and community options, and we can all still enjoy sufficient fresh water, clean air and mild winters.  There is a lot to love about my home county and city!”