Barnett: Continuing second phase of public service

ROCKINGHAM — It has been a tremendous honor to serve Windham County for the past two years as an assistant judge.

Public service has been a major part of my life for much of the last 40 years.

After serving an enlistment in the Navy, I came home to work in the machine tool industry, but soon realized that it was in decline and would not be a long-term career.

In 1989, I helped start a retail business in downtown Bellows Falls, The Rock and Hammer Jewelry Store, with my partner of 25 years, Pamela Parant. The economy was in a downturn, a number of longtime retailers were retiring or just closing, and the community was in trouble.

I believed we needed to do more to help the community than just opening a store, and thus I began the second phase of my public service. I served on the Selectboard for 14 years, eight years as chairman. During that time, we worked hard to get the community back on track.

I served on many other committees during that time as well, including the Third Century Task Force, the Board of Civil Authority, Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, Rockingham Old Home Days, Windham County Democratic Committee, the Opera House Committee, as well as many others. I served as chairman or president for a number of these organizations. I have also served as justice of the peace.

In 2011, I was appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin to the Vermont Housing Finance Authority board of commissioners. That group's mission is to provide housing opportunities to low- and moderate-income Vermonters. VHFA has a total loan portfolio of about $900 million. This year we will loan out approximately $60 million for single- and multi-family housing.

* * *

In 2012, I was elected by the Windham County Democratic Committee and confirmed by Governor Shumlin to fill the vacancy of assistant judge. I have worked well with Windham County's other assistant judge, the Honorable Patricia Duff.

Our duties are well-defined by the Vermont Constitution, state statutes, and the state Supreme Court.

Mostly, we sit as a three-judge panel with a presiding judge on divorces, parental rights and responsibilities, and relief from abuse cases. We carefully deliberate, and we decide the outcome based on the evidence and testimony of witnesses taken under oath.

Judge Duff and I have county administrative duties as well. We present a budget each year to the people of Windham County to operate and maintain the County Courthouse in Newfane and the Windham County Sheriff's Department. We set a county tax rate based on those needs.

We are working on a number of issues of importance. The County Courthouse needs significant work on heating, fire, and life safety, as well as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We are very involved in cases of domestic abuse, and recently we have been working with other organizations to create a much-needed child visitation center in the Brattleboro area. This center will ensure that children have safe and supervised court-ordered visits with parents who do not currently have contact.

I have worked hard for my country, state, and community. With your support on Aug. 26, I will continue to do so.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates