Work and Politics Part III
I have decided to open up myself in a 3-part series, and give an intimate look at my life and the events that have made me the person I am today. I hope you will take the time to read it and by the end feel you know me better than any politician you ever voted for. Welcome to Part 3.
After transferring from community college to Molloy College I had decided I wanted to be a middle school history teacher. I always enjoyed history, and I loved coaching my nephews’ dek hockey team. Although many would run from the idea of teaching middle school, I enjoyed working with this age group. However, financial responsibilities at home prevented me from working part time, so I had to continue to work full time at night, sometimes not getting home until three in the morning and then back at school for an 8 AM class. I front-loaded my college schedule with history classes because I could maintain a 2.8 GPA without having to put in much study time, something I had very little of, due to work, As Kathy and I became more serious, and I ran out of history classes to take, I began to struggle and another fork in the road was fast approaching.
I sat down with my mom and told her my plans. Kathy and I wanted to get married after college and I couldn’t continue working and going to school full time. I asked if I could stop paying “rent” so I could concentrate on school. It must have broken her heart to tell me that wasn’t an option, but she offered an alternative. She told me that when my dad died, his boss at the gas utility had told her if there was anything he could do for the family, we should just ask. She told me that he was now president of the customer service division, and that I should call in his offer. She told me working at the utility was a career, not just a job, it had good pay and great benefits, something that someone who has marriage on their mind should be looking for.
Next thing I knew, I was filling out an application at the corporate office and talking my way into my father’s old boss’s office. He remembered my father and mother, and he remembered his promise as well. He told me he would see what he could do. By the time I got home, the company had left me a message to come in a few days later to take a physical, and I would be starting in their call center.
I started out as a call center representative, and became a proud member of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 101 for the next 15 years. I held various jobs during that time, my longest as Assistant Custodian of Records. My primary function was to research subpoenaed information and testify in landlord tenant court. I gained an understanding of low-income housing and the slumlords who usually owned them.
Kathy and I got married the November.after she graduated, and no surprise we moved into the apartment above my mother and sister. This allowed me to continue helping my family financially for the next 7 years, before we bought our first house. After about 12 years with the company, Kathy and I were rear-ended by a drunk driver, and my injuries kept me out of work for a year. My union played an important role in my ability to keep my job, leaving me with a lasting impression of the importance of unions.
Although a job was waiting for me when I returned, my position had been given to someone else. I ended up in our accounts payable department. I was ready to make the transition from union to management. I always wanted to make my dad proud of me, and I felt moving to management in a place he spent his whole career would do just that. I set my sights on Consumer Communications Coordinator; it would allow me the opportunity to refine my enjoyment for writing.
I won the promotion but unfortunately I would only hold that position for two years. The bad thing about being in management was you didn’t have union protection, and when upper management wanted to make a change you had to accept it. In my case, my boss was demoted into my position and I ended up back in the call center as a supervisor, so I had come full circle.
I became supervisor of the group that specialized in helping the elderly and disabled. Our job was to make sure the gas wasn’t turned off in the middle of the winter on someone so vulnerable. The company ideally never wanted to see a bad headline about someone freezing to death because we turned off the gas for non-payment. In reality it was a daily fight with the revenue-making collection department. However, I learned a lot about fighting for the elderly and disabled and I’m proud to report that no one on my watch made headlines. Working in this environment was very stressful, requiring 10 hour work days and an hour and a half commute on each end. I had a young family and wanted to coach their sports teams, and cheer at their dance competitions, to generally be part of their lives. So another fork in the road was once again approaching.
For 17 of my 20 years at the company I enjoyed my job, but at that time I couldn’t stand going to work; it changed my personality and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. So after 20 years I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
I have always been the one to book our little romantic weekend getaways, and Kathy and I loved staying at bed and breakfasts. Each time we visited one we would fantasize about owning one in the far off future. I thought, maybe the future was now.. So I started to look at bed and breakfasts for sale on the computer, and when Kathy saw me on the computer, thinking I was booking another getaway she said, “So are we going somewhere?” I said, “Not exactly.” We had a long conversation, and ultimately decided to buy our own business and new home.
I will spare you the saga that was selling, moving and buying our bed and breakfast but it brought us to Wooster, Ohio. We owned and ran the business for four years and little more than tripled the income over that time. We sold the business and rented a house in Wooster for the next 10 years. I studied for my insurance license and have worked for Allstate ever since. Last year Kathy and I purchased a house here in Ashland.
I've always been interested in politics, but it wasn't until after this last presidential election that I felt I could no longer sit on the sidelines and take a passive stance. I started by getting involved with the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017. My wife and younger daughter traveled to Washington to march, while my older daughter marched in Chicago and my son attended a rally in Lafayette, Indiana. I marched in Wooster, and I was touched and invigorated to see so many people united and standing up for basic human and women's rights.
As I became more involved and started to talk with people, I became convinced that my life's experiences uniquely qualified me to fight for people of my community. I want to give voice to the voiceless, and promote policies that stand for fairness and dignity for all. That is why I'm running for a seat in the Ohio Legislature, representing District 70. Now that you have read my three part series, I hope you feel like you have a better understanding of the kind of person I am. I truly believe we live in a flippable district, but I will need your help. Please message me if you would like to volunteer with the campaign, and if you would like to donate to my campaign you can at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/friends-of-kevin-barnet-1 Thank you for taking the time to read about who I am and what I believe.