By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, August 25, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
HAMPTON -- Departing Town Manager James Barrington was celebrated Rotary Club style at a well-attended Texas Barbecue held last Sunday afternoon on the grounds of the Tuck Museum.
The event served not only as a send-off for Barrington and his wife Darlene as they head back to Texas, but also as a fundraiser for the Rotary Foundation, a cause near and dear to his heart.
Barrington had announced his resignation at a selectmen's meeting in late June, citing family and faith obligations as the motivators for his decision to head south. He vacates his town manager seat on Friday, August 25.
Barrington's official "good-bye" was organized by his Administrative Assistant Maureen Duffy, Don Lamprey and Brad Jett (all Rotary members) and Hampton Recreation Director, Dyana Martin. Rotary member and Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce President, Doc Noel, emceed the event.
The festivities were held under giant tents to shield guests from forecasted rain. The weather held up, however, as everyone enjoyed a catered meal of barbecued chicken and ribs, salads, cornbread and dessert, all to the sound of country and western music.
Wearing red, white and blue T-shirts (resembling the flag of their home state and declaring "It's a Texas thing; y'all wouldn't understand"), the Barringtons greeted friends and associates from throughout the Hampton community, as well as a delegation of Rotary members from near and far.
"The Rotary family has been absolutely great," said Barrington, "This [relationship] has been very special to us during our time here."
He added, "The outpouring of love and affection that has been shown here is wonderful. This is what I'll miss."
One noteworthy guest was John Henson, a Rotary District Governor based in Henderson, Texas. Barrington had met Henson on a bus while attending a recent Rotary International Convention in Chicago.
Through the course of their bus ride conversation, the two Rotarians discovered numerous connections, including the fact that Barrington's mother lives in East Henderson, where both men grew up. They also found they both knew some of the same people from the area.
"They were like two kids in a candy store," commented Jett, who had accompanied Barrington to Chicago.
The connection didn't stop there, however. When Barrington's mother suffered a stroke earlier this year, he gave Henson a call.
"I need your help," he said at the time, and asked Henson to enlist the aid of fellow Rotary members to "look in on her, take care of her, let her know she's loved and being looked after" during her stay in the hospital and the nursing home.
"He marshaled for forces for her," Barrington added.
As a special farewell surprise, Henson was secretly flown in a few days prior Sunday's barbecue, and arrived at the Hampton Airfield as the Barringtons enjoyed a meal at the Airfield Café.
"If James had false teeth, they would have fallen out," laughed Henson, recalling Barrington's reaction when they re-connected at the restaurant.
Under the main tent, the good wishes flowed as the afternoon progressed.
"I want to thank you for doing a good job for our town," Hampton businessman Roger Syphers said as he shared a hearty handshake with Barrington.
"I think Hampton will miss James," said former Administrative Assistant Karen Anderson. "He brought a spirit of friendliness back to the town that I hope will continue."
Now serving as town administrator for Greenland, Anderson credits Barrington for being "a great mentor to me" as she adjusted to the responsibilities of her new position.
"I kind of modeled my Rotary life after James," said Jett, who for the last three years has walked with Barrington on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the seawall at Hampton Beach. "He's a true Rotarian; you couldn't ask for a better friend. I'll miss him dearly."
"I'm sad to see James going," said former Hampton Police Chief, Bill Wrenn, who expressed some concern that Barrington's departure would "have a negative affect on this town." Wrenn called Barrington "a true leader, and the best boss I ever had."
Dyana Martin seemed to agree.
"I think it's going to be a big loss to the town," she said. "He's a nice person. I think a lot of people are going to miss him, including myself."
Time was set aside during to acknowledge a number of past and present district governors for Rotary who were present at the barbecue, as well as Rotary International Director Mike McGovern of Maine.
"James, it's good to see you have so many friends," McGovern said, noting that even though people may not always understand what he says with his Texas drawl, "you understand him by what he does."
Barrington received proclamations, praise and hugs by Hampton Selectman Chairman, Virginia Bridle-Russell and State Representative, Sheila Francoeur. Awards were presented to three Paul Harris Fellow recipients (Rev. Deb Knowlton, former Town Attorney Steve Ells, and Victoria Inn owner John Nyhan), and Barrington himself was presented a crystal award signifying him as a major donor to Rotary causes.
"This truly shows what a generous member of Rotary James Barrington is," said McGovern.
Hampton's departing town manager also received a special gift in remembrance of, in Duffy's words, his "hard work and accomplishments here in Hampton" — a framed painting of the town office building by artist Harold LaPointe, whose works are on display year-round throughout the building.
Both James and Darlene Barrington admit leaving Hampton and heading for Canyon, Texas will be "bittersweet" for them, but they're looking forward to settling down in a place where "you drop in on your friends." In fact, they extended that exact invitation, telling the crowd, "Thank you for everything. Come and see us!"
Looking back on close to a decade as Seacoast area residents, Barrington said, "It has been an absolutely wonderful experience for us. The closer everything gets, the more it sinks in. I'm going to miss Hampton."