By Tim Gardner
If you were looking for the quintessential Avery Countian, Phillip Barrier, Jr. would be a good choice. It would be difficult to find anyone with more passion for his native county nor an individual with more dedication, commitment, skill and innovative ideas while leading its day-to-day government operations as County Manager the past four years.
His governmental peers and others across the county and the State of North Carolina are aware of Barrier, Jr.’s expertise in his chosen profession. And he recently added another prestigious accomplishment to his list of accolades as County Manager.
At the April Avery County Board of Education meeting, Barrier, Jr. was honored for his leadership throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as the Board of Education presented him with its first-ever Avery Friends of Education award. This honor recognizes those in the county who make significant contributions to the Avery County School System. Board of Education Chairman John Greene presented the award to Barrier, Jr. and Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman expressed his gratitude to Barrier, Jr. for the county’s efforts to vaccinate Avery County Schools staff members to combat Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“I’m surprised to be chosen for the award, but I’m deeply honored and most appreciative,” Barrier, Jr., who was given a plaque from the Board of Education.
The plaque reads: The Avery County Board of Education-Friends of Education Award, 1st Quarter 2021, Presented to Mr. Phillip Barrier-For Your Ongoing and Generous Commitment of Time, Support, and Service to the Students and Staff of Avery County Schools, April 13, 2021.
The County Manager said any achievement he makes or award he receives is a direct reflection of the efforts of his staff and the Board of County Commissioners.
“I have such a great and dedicated team of county employees who serve the people of the county the most professional and helpful ways. Every county commissioner I have worked for has a true servant’s heart and they all have many great contributions to our county. Each county department has exceptional workers who do far more that their job responsibilities for the county’s citizens and all others in need.
“I have brought an attitude to the county manager’s office that together we can give our citizens the best county service. Our employees believe this and all I cheer them on and support their vision. I’m a good listener and will always have an open-door policy for all our county’s citizens and I believe the work of each county commissioner, county employee and hopefully, my contributions, help make our county better. It’s truly a big team; little me effort,” he declared.
Barrier, Jr. has also been presented a Distinguished Citizen Award by Mayland Community College, which serves Avery, Michell and Yancey counties, for his promotion of, and contributions to, the college and Avery County.
In 2018, Barrier, Jr. was chosen to receive one of North Carolina State Government’s most prestigious honors, the Edwin M. Gill Award. He is the first recipient of that award from the far Northwest North Carolina Mountains. The award recognized Barrier, Jr. as the 2018 Outstanding Graduate in the Municipal and County Administration Course at University of North Carolina-School of Government in Chapel Hill. The Municipal and County Administration Course is an intensive, year-long program designed for city and county managers, department heads, and other city or county officials whose responsibilities require an understanding of functions beyond individual areas of specialization. That award is presented each year to the student in the County Administration Course with the most distinguished record. It is based on merit, coursework, class participation and evaluations from classmates and the Institute of Government faculty who teach the course. A cash award was presented to Barrier, Jr. at the graduation ceremony, and he was given a plaque at the Association’s annual conference ceremonies.
One of the top achievements during Barrier Jr.’s tenure as Avery County Manager has been the county’s funding of new construction and renovations, which are ongoing at Avery County High School in Newland. These phased additions and renovations center around a new addition to the front of the building, which will house the main entrance and lobby, as well as classrooms and many other facilities. The project consists of 56,468 square-feet in construction and 19,974-square-foot in renovations and will meet state safety standards and updates to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
County facilities that already been completed since Barrier, Jr. has served as Avery County’s Manager include a new swimming pool, playground complex and agricultural service headquarters and the adjoining Avery Community Center.
Another accomplishment in which Barrier, Jr. takes great pride and that makes Avery’s full and part-time residents especially happy is that county taxes have not increased in any fiscal year while he has been County Manager.
In his current post, Barrier, Jr. also: Started Avery Cares, a group of citizens and organizations working to combat the drug problem in our county; Began the county’s Economic Advisory Committee, which meets monthly to promote Avery County and address economic needs; Worked with the Avery Chamber of Commerce to receive two $100,000.00 grants to fund Broadband Internet Service in the county; and Worked with the Avery Sheriff’s Office, Daymark and VAYA Health to begin a tele-conferencing service for adult mental health for the county.
Additionally, Barrier, Jr. began the Celebrate County Government program as County Manager in which Avery County employees are presented a plaque at a Board of County Commissioners meeting and a pin every five years commemorating their years of service to the county.
Barrier, Jr. worked in the Avery County Tax Office for 19 years, including as an Appraiser, then as Tax Administrator and finally as Tax Administrator-Collector. He served as Avery’s Interim County Manager for a few months in the spring-early summer of 2017, before having the interim tag removed and becoming Avery’s County Manager in July, 2017.
Barrier, Jr. graduated from Avery County High School in 1981 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Appalachian State University. He is married to the former Renee Bullis. They have two children (daughter, Kendra, married to Kevin Sheets, and son, Joshua) and two grandchildren (granddaughter Katlin, and grandson, Luke).
Phillip Barrier, Jr. also has a brother (Charlie Bob) and a sister (Diane). His parents are the late Phillip, Sr. (Phil) and Mitzi Greene Barrier. Phillip Barrier, Jr. and his wife and mother reside in the Ingalls Community of Avery County.
“It’s an honor to serve as county manager in my native land. And I have, and will continue, to do my job to the best of my God-given ability for all Avery County citizens. They are the most wonderful of all the state’s citizens. Again, I’m so grateful for the Friends of Education award. It’s a highlight of my professional and personal life,” Barrier, Jr. concluded.