'They can call me anytime'

Council member prided himself on listening to voters

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He had his Kilgore City Council cards, his personal cards and his “Barr None” campaign cards: each one had his phone number and Neil Barr was quick to point it out.

“Whatever they want to talk about,” he said. “My neighbor's dog won't shut up. Their chickens are eating my flowers.

“They can call me anytime. Day or night. I'll answer.”

It was those kinds of calls that kept him on the dais for eight years in Place 3, from his 70s into his early 80s, and Barr was looking forward to closing out a decade after his latest term – a recent health scare sidelined him for a few weeks, but he was on-hand to take his most recent oath of office May 22 (and show off the new scar).

The father of four died this week, leaving his colleagues, former classmates and friends throughout the community in mourning.

“Mr. Barr was such a pleasure to work with, a man of few words,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said, “but when he did speak, it always made an impact and frequently brought down the house.”

Born in Kilgore in 1937, Barr attended both Kilgore High School and Kilgore College, where he was a manager for the World Famous Kilgore College Rangerettes. After finishing his education at North Texas State University, he returned home to work in the East Texas Oilfield until he was called to active duty with the Kilgore National Guard Unit and, ultimately, volunteered for the Army eventually serving as a combat medic..

The staff of City Hall is mourning the loss, Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said Friday.

“We will greatly miss his unwavering support and unique sense of humor. His door was always open, and his telephone was always on for citizens to call with their comments and concerns.”

Each budget season, Kilgore's emergency responders were Barr's top priority. They're another reason he continued running – Barr initially planned to bow out of politics after celebrating his 80th birthday in office, but when the day came and went, he was ready for more.

There was plenty to do at the house, he quipped in a gravelly voice. Chris, his wife, would have something to say about another term, too. But the people of Kilgore were always calling about something – they had his number, of course, right there on the business cards – and their council member needed to help them cure whatever new problem had arisen.

Besides, he'd joke, Lantrip Street still wasn't wide enough.

Barr never did much campaigning, fending off a handful of challengers between recent election cycles. A few yard signs were all that was necessary, he'd say. That and handing out his business cards, making sure his audience saw his number.

“I’m the only councilman that has my home phone number on my business card, if you’ll notice that. I don’t know if that’s important or not, but that’s the way I feel about it. I’m here for the people, for the city employees, the police department, the fire department and all the citizens, old and young, of Kilgore.”

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