Packing Up and Saying Goodbye

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, August 18, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Town Manager James Barrington spent last week packing up the office he has spent the last 9½ years in.

"That will be the last thing to go," said Barrington, pointing to a Texas flag he proudly displays in office."

Barrington, who announced his resignation two months ago to return to his home state of Texas, is finishing up his last week as Hampton's town manager.

On Sunday he will be guest of honor at a good old-fashioned Texas barbecue at Tuck Field and on Monday he will attend his last selectmen's meeting in Hampton.

While he's looking forward to returning home, he admits he's going to miss friends he has made here.

"There are so many good people here," Barrington said. "There are so many wonderful things about Hampton. There is much more wonderful things about Hampton than anything less than that."

Looking back, Barrington said he never thought he would end up in a career as a town manager or that it would take him to New England.

"I was sort of a geek in high school," Barrington said. "I read biographies instead of fiction. I read science books instead of novels. I was fascinated by it. I really thought that the direction I was going to go in was either engineering or astronomy."

But he changed directions in college to a career in government because he wanted to make a difference in the world. And he thought he could make more of a difference on the local level than state or federal.

"In local governments you can actually make a difference," Barrington said. "...That's where the action is and where you affect people's lives on a day-to-day basis."

Barrington was hired as Hampton's town manager on Nov. 12, 1996, and said he took the job because of the challenges it presented.

"I was intrigued by Hampton," Barrington said. "It was a larger municipality than I had been in before. And with the seasonal influx that was advertised, I said to myself that sounds pretty exciting."

He came aboard at a time when the town was still reeling from the controversy concerning its former town manager, Hunter Rieseberg, whose contract was bought out by selectmen behind closed doors with taxpayer money.

On Barrington's first day as town manager, he told The Hampton Union he would quell months of turmoil by being calm, and listening to people's concerns. It's a philosophy he tried to maintain no mater what controversy presented itself in town.

His accomplishments during his tenure include moving employees into a new town hall, the Lafayette Road project, construction of a new $6 million police headquarters and voter approval of a $12 million plan for Hampton Beach infrastructure improvements.

Barrington said his goal as a manager over the years was implementing "a vision for Hampton that provides excellence in municipal service." But in the last couple of years, Barrington said that vision has been harder to implement, especially with a "spirit of negativity" and three default budgets in a row.

"We have a small number of folks here in town that would make Joseph Goebbels proud with their propaganda techniques," Barrington said. "And their propaganda techniques are every bit as effective as his was.

"They are suckering the citizens into believing lies about what is going on because it is easier than believing the truth. I can understand it when the voters say we can't afford it. I have no problem with that. But I can't understand when publicly elected officials advocate for a default budget."

Barrington said he decided it was time to leave because he no longer had enthusiasm for the job. The impetus for his decision goes back several months, when he returned to Texas to attend his mother's funeral.

And while he would have liked to have seen a new addition to the fire station and a new library, he said he is leaving town with no regrets.

"I guess you look at the needs for a community and there is always something else," Barrington said. "I don't think I have time for regrets. I look back at my tenure here and I don't know of anything that I would have done differently."

Barrington said he doesn't know what the next chapter in his life will bring but he's looking forward to it.

"I plan to talk to one of the newspapers down there about doing some freelance work," Barrington said. "I'm also going to try my hand at magazine writing and I have a couple of novels in mind."

He also said public speaking and photography are two other things he may like to do.

"I like to think when we leave, the world will be a better place than when we arrive," Barrington said. "That is the legacy that I hope I leave behind in Hampton. That it was a better community when I leave than it was when I arrived. That is the best you can hope for in a job like this."

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