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Rita Barton seeks opportunity to prove herself an asset to Phil Campbell

Rita Barton was the Phil Campbell Park and Recreation director for 15 years. Now, she said, she is ready for a new challenge.

Barton is seeking election to city council Place No. 4 in Phil Campbell.  “I have lived in Phil Campbell most of my life except the times of living in Germany and Georgia while Dad was in the military,” Barton said. “I graduated from Phil Campbell High School in 1973.”

Barton’s experience with municipal government is rooted in decades of service with parks and recreation. For more than 30 years she was part of the Park & Recreation Department and was director nearly 15 years. “In earlier years on the Board, I was involved in making the Phil Campbell swimming pool rules along with other P&R members,” she said. “I was also involved in looking through applications from young people who wanted to be lifeguards and also the manager of the pool … I considered it an honor to be on the Park and Recreation Department.

One of Barton’s greatest parks and recreation triumphs was the 2011 Hoedown.

“In 2011 when the EF-5 tornado hit Phil Campbell, I decided to still have the Hoedown Festival, but it was a little different that year,” she said. “We made it a Relief Festival … That was the best festival we ever had – everyone coming together and being there for each other. We had a tremendous crowd that year.”

That was also the same year a documentary was filmed by Andrew Reed called “I’m with Phil.” “Brooklyn Phil Campbell and I were instrumental in getting Phil and Phyllis Campbells from all over the world to come and help remove debris that had occurred during the storm,” Barton said. “We ended up having 21 Phils come to the festival. Phil Campbell, Ala., got worldwide coverage from television stations, radio stations and newspapers, such as Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News, ABC and Parade Magazine, just to name a few.

“That was a time in my life I’ll never forget. I’m so thankful for all of the new friends I have made in 2011 and continue to have as my friends today.”

Barton remembers Mayor Jerry Mays and the council purchasing the property where the Phil Campbell Memorial Park is today, another of her proudest accomplishments. “I wanted to put up a Veterans Memorial and Tornado Memorial, and Bruce (Forman) saw that it was done,” she said. “We have many things at the park, including our Phil Campbell Hoedown Festival.

“It makes me so proud of this big accomplishment,” Barton said. Getting the park well-established was an ongoing project. “I was seeking to find a new stage, and with the help of a friend, I found one. The mayor and council approved it, bought it, and it is sitting on the park site today. Maybe one day we will have a permanent stage or amphitheater.

“In preparation for our new stage, we had to get the lot cleaned up after the tornado. So I had people from all over to help clean the lot up … It was such a humbling time, and I just wanted Phil Campbell residents to know how caring the people from other parts of Alabama felt about us. That is a time I’ll always remember. There was much work to do, but we did it.”

Barton prides herself that she has “always worked hard to have a good festival every year, and I still want that,” she said. “Above all, I’m most proud of the people, having a good time and seeing smiles on everyone’s faces. Seeing those smiles, I know that we did a good job.”

In 2010 Barton received the Distinguished Service Award at the Chamber of Commerce Partnership Awards Banquet. “It was a real honor to be presented this award for my service in the Phil Campbell Park & Recreation Department,” she said.

She was also involved in helping to build the Phil Campbell Elementary School Playground that Disney donated.

“I’ve always wanted to be the best I can be, and nothing less,” Barton said. “That’s why I decided to give up being director over the Park and Recreation Department and seek new and brighter things.” Barton said while she might not have as much experience as some, “I do have memories and hopefully a brighter future to try to do my best, if you give me the chance,” she said. “I know I will work hard, and I want to see Phil Campbell grow with Industry, have a more beautiful and cleaner town and make progress where it counts. I feel like I can be a great asset to Phil Campbell. When you go to the polls Aug. 23, please keep me in mind.”

Barton is married to Eddie, who is seeking re-election for Place No. 4, and they have two children: son Chris, who is married to Tennille – and their two children, Tierney, a freshman at Northwest-Shoals Community College, and Kara, 10th grade at PCHS and on the PCHS dance line; and son Kevin, who is married to Sarha – and their two children, Autumn Grace, 4th grade at PCES, and Oliver, who will be 2 years old in December.

Barton works full time for CB&S Bank, where she has worked for eight years, in Phil Campbell as the senior teller. “I love my job and the people I work with. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my customers, talking with them and helping them with their needs.” She has a total of 38 years banking experience.