REFLECTION … Paul Barnaby talks about his 16 years as a Fulton County Commissioner. He stepped down after serving from 2001-17. (Photo by James Pruitt)
After nearly 60 years in public service Paul Barnaby remains involved with serving friends and neighbors in Fulton County.
Barnaby stepped down from the Board of County Commissioners in December after 16 years. Now with that chapter of his life complete, he looked back at his life and some of his accomplishments he’s most proud of.
Adding 35 sirens across the county so everyone could know when storm warnings were issued. That included one by a campsite on a rural lake on CR 11 and another at Harrison Lake.
“We use them all,” Barnaby said. “We have sirens in all the villages; that was worthwhile.”
His first big project was changing the program for ambulances and staffing the stations for EMS. The change ensured all the stations had at least one paramedic on duty for eight hours a day. This means Fayette and Lyons. Metamora has two.
The larger stations, Swanton, Delta, Wauseon and Archbold, all have 24-hour coverage, Barnaby said. The smaller stations have two people they can count on, he said.
Another project was ensuring the rural fire departments had access to water that did not involve going back to their home station, Barnaby said. To solve this, farmers were convinced to allow the installation of devices he called dry hydrants, at their ponds.
“When Wauseon had their big fire, they had to get water coming down from Archbold,” Barnaby said. “They ran out of water here.”
Making changes at the recycling center was another project Barnaby is pleased with. At one time, Wauseon was running the county’s recycling center, but stopped citing the need for more money. Since there is very little money to be made in recycling, the county couldn’t pay more, so Wauseon backed out.
So with no manpower, the county brought in the Board of Developmental Disabilities to have its clients to come in and separate the various recyclables.
‘Now, the god-danged state tightened that up and said the Board of DD couldn’t operate that,” Barnaby said. “We still do the recycling with them, now the value of paper, cardboard, there isn’t anything in them.”
He recalled when the county added the water lines from Toledo to Swancreek Township as the way Fulton got into the water business. The township at 7,000 people is larger than Wauseon.
The youth jailed was finishing up in 2000, while CCNO was completed five years before that.
“We had to build the courthouse in Lucas County as part of the four-county system,” Barnaby said.
He cited the county’s standing as one of only four or five to receive an A+ from the state for communication.
“We pushed that the whole 16 years,” Barnaby said. “For sixteen years we sent out a program telling where the money is spent. That we are trying to improve our communication with our people.”
Barnaby wrote the programs for 13 years, and now Toni Schindler has done it the last three, he said.
He has been involved with the senior citizens program in the county since the beginning. When he started the state only gave Fulton County $5,000 a year for seniors, while counties like Defiance, Henry and Paulding were getting $40,000 to $160,000, he said. He couldn’t accept that so he got to work.
“By golly I know how to rub elbows,” Barnaby said. But while he was rubbing elbows, he was also rubbing his fellow commissioners the wrong way. “They wanted to fire me.
“They were really pissed off. They thought I was overstepping my bounds.”
Their opposition was based on their feeling the senior center shouldn’t cater to people with diabetes and other ailments, Barnaby said. Instead, he worked with a dietitian and now the center gets about $160,000 a year from the state, he said.
“We’ve gone up. Some of it’s for housekeeping and some of it is for food,” Barnaby said.
He got in hot water for changing the menu at the center as well. Since he was an elected official, he didn’t see a way they could force him off the board.
Eight years later, he ran afoul of his fellow commissioners again. He was upset at the other two for talking to each other about putting the sales tax on when times were tight.
The board had been talking about the tax for awhile but Barnaby felt it was a mistake. When it came time for a vote, he said no. It did not go over well. “They were madder than a wet hen,” Barnaby said smiling. “But we cut back; we made it without it.
“I got a lot of thank you’s from the community, because I said we haven’t tried everything yet.”
One issue he was disappointed was not seeing CR 24 being expanded to handle truck traffic around Archbold. There was majority support for the plan, with Barry Rupp, an engineer also in support, but one member stopped it.”
“I really wanted it to go through,” Barnaby said. Barnaby remembers trying to get vehicles for people who needed rides. But the county never seemed to get the money from the state to have a transportation system without jumping through hoops, he said.
“We bought more vehicle for the seniors and the DD,” Barnaby said. “Our Jobs and Family Services out here, we helped promote that taxi service for Delta.
“All the time I wanted more people, we’ve been not keeping up with the times. Seniors are becoming the largest segment of the population.”
The county has the taxing ability to pay for meals and wants the seniors to take part in.
“When these seniors are home by themselves, walls don’t talk,” Barnaby said. “You got to keep them using what they have to talk to people.”
Barnaby said he learned a lot from Administrator Vond Hall who provided the board with plenty of reports. But he had to learn where the money came from and went and learned how to read a spreadsheet
“I was always good at math,” Barnaby said. “I did a lot of studying on my own; If I wasn’t on the right trail, I could always ask Vond.” He decided to run for the board in 2000 and was told by the clerk that he had about a 5-8 percent chance of winning. After a summer of wrapping up commitments to various school-related activities including FFA, he began to campaign in earnest in September.
“I won by 4,000 votes,” Barnaby said. “I knew a lot more people than the clerk thought.” While he finished his career as the board president, he didn’t have to be in the limelight to serve. He won all his other re-election campaigns, He always had an opponent. But after 16 years, his wife told him that was enough.
As for the future, there will be no more elections. Instead, he’s thinking of working more at the senior as a volunteer. Since he was a commissioner he could not be part of the paid staff, he said. “I’ll go over and help,” Barnaby said. “I will go to some basketball games.”
Barnaby graduated from Metamora High School and attended The Ohio State University, graduating with a degree in Agriculture. He also received education certificates from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green University. He taught in the Evergreen School District for 36 years, teaching elementary school and junior high, Occupational Work Adjustment (OWA) and Future Farmers of America (FFA).
He resides in Amboy Township with his wife, Ruth and enjoys spending time with his two children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about being Commissioner is talking to people, and promoting the county. It’s also the thing that I will miss the most.”
© 2019, James Pruitt. All rights reserved.