by CYNDY SLOVAK-BARTON
They say he was loud. The Hays Free Press facebook page has comments from readers and friends saying “heaven is a lot louder” – all talking about his booming voice.
When Bob Barton passed away this week, a void was left in the world.
Bob was known for his politics and for his fight for the underdog. He stood up to bullies, and then forgave those bullies. he could argue a political point for hours with someone, and then turn around go have a cup of coffee with them.
Don’t hold a grudge. Forget about it. His gentle character didn’t allow him to remain angry for long.
Until just a few weeks ago, the offices of the Hays Free Press were full of his comrades, dropping by to talk about the latest gossip at city hall. They were loud; they laughed – and argued – a lot. There were times when the staff would walk to Bob’s section of the office and say, “Bob, use your inside voice. We’re on deadline!”
He could comply. Or, he would just yell back at the staff and tease them until they walked away.
People looked to Bob for advice, for gossip, for a different view. They wanted his opinion on the latest city manager; they wanted to know what he thought about the possibilities of a road bond being passed. They looked to him for his political acumen.
But few people talk about his abilities as a businessman.
I knew a much quieter side to Bob Barton. As he took me aside to talk about budgets, spreadsheets and taxes, he was quiet. I could stop by his office – either at home or at the downtown office, until recent months – and find him posting his checks, making sure everything balanced.
He would rattle office percentages for newpaper sales vs. labor overhead. He knew how much you should be paying for printing, for communications, for each department – whether news, advertising or production. He always read trade journals from front to back, throwing new ideas onto my desk. “Have we thought about this?”
It was a big deal when, just a few years ago, he finally turned over a few duties to me – starting with payroll. He hated having to go on the internet to make deposits. He refused to do it.
But the IRS no longer allowed small businesses to make payroll deposits through the local bank. Instead, the higher ups wanted everything done online.
That wasn’t Bob’s way. So, he turned it over to me. Slowly, one little bit at a time, I took over the books for the newspaper business. Then came the rental business, and finally the construction of the Barton Word building. Page by page, account by account, he decided to allow me to take over these mundane but important jobs, so he could pursue writing his book on the history of Hays County.
There were time I felt overwhelmed with trying to juggle a struggling small business while making sure that the employees always – always – got their paychecks. Bob would just say, “Let me help you balance that.”
He was quiet. He wasn’t loud. He just diligently worked away. Page after page of ledger sheets. Pencil – rarely ink– flowing across the page.
He took care of business the old fashioned way. Pay the bills, always protect and support the staff, keep the money flowing – in and out.
Juggle, juggle, juggle.
Bob won’t have to juggle all those numbers any more. But wherever he is, his companions certainly need to make sure that their columns add up correctly and their debits and credits balance.
Because Bob will know.