Barksdale remembered for downtown legacy
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Sep 13, 2013 | 4735 views |  0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Scott Barksdale talks about Noble Street in this file photo. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Scott Barksdale talks about Noble Street in this file photo. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Scott Barksdale, a man remembered for his work to transform Anniston’s downtown, died Tuesday of acute leukemia. He was 64.

Known as a rock star of sorts in the national Main Street program, Barksdale arrived in Anniston in 1993 to serve as the first executive director of Spirit of Anniston, where he spent more than 13 years dedicated to the development of the Model City’s historic downtown.

Barksdale’s son, Travis Barksdale, said his father was hyper-dedicated to his job.

“He was fortunate because he found something in life that he was good at,” he said. “He was a genius at it. He was the best.”

Jim Miller, who served on the Spirit board for 12 years, said Barksdale had thick skin and was determined in his mission to improve downtown.

“We owe him a debt of gratitude for the downtown that we still have,” Miller said. “Many cities have lost all of their downtown, and we’ve been able to hold on to a representative sample of the downtown.”

Miller said Barksdale was like a kid in a candy store during the project known as Noble Streetscape, which ripped up the street block-by-block and repaved the street and sidewalks, as well as installed lighting and landscaping. He said Barksdale walked up and down the street, picking out souvenirs, such as pieces of old trolley tracks.

“Everything he did, everything he approached, he always had a laugh,” Miller said. “It seemed to go all the way down to his toes. He was a delight, he really was.”

Ann Welch, who also served on the Spirit’s board during Barksdale’s tenure, said he tried to work with the community and with City Hall.

“He was one of those people who put a lot of effort to into working together, bringing things together,” she said. “He was just well thought of by many.”

Sherri Sumners, who worked with Main Street in Opelika before joining the Spirit’s board, said Barksdale was recognized nationally as one of the real pioneers for Main Street programs and traveled to other cities to conduct training for local organizations. Before coming to Anniston, Barksdale was the director of the Mississippi Downtown Development Association, which helped oversee downtown redevelopment programs across the state.

“In Main Street circles, everybody knew of Scott Barksdale,” Sumners said.

“Scott was so humble, I don’t think a lot of people realized how smart he was and how well he knew his business,” Sumners added.

Barksdale’s Main Street career came a little later in life.

Barksdale’s sister, Jane Slinger, said her brother was born in McKenzie, Tenn., and grew up in the Louisville, Ky. area. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in education in 1971, Barksdale quickly decided teaching wasn’t his calling. He received a master’s degree in business in 1976. While working for a Kentucky chemical company, Barksdale eventually ran for and won a seat on the City Council in Brandenburg. He went on to head the city government when the elected mayor fell ill.

While serving in city government, Slinger said, Barksdale helped organize the city’s Main Street program. When he was eventually laid off from his job at the chemical company, he took over as director of the city’s Main Street program beginning in 1980. In 1984, he took a job with Kentucky’s state historic preservation office, which oversees the state’s Main Street programs, and he stayed there until moving to Mississippi in 1989.

As he moved from state to state, Barksdale bought Victorian-era homes that he spent his weekends restoring, according to his son.

“It wasn’t about buying and selling them,” he said. “It was about the work; it was about restoring something back to its original glory. That’s why he loved Main Street so much.”

One of those homes was at 1326 Woodstock Ave., where he lived for more than a decade while in Anniston, said Robert Downing, his next-door neighbor.

“He really contributed to the neighborhood we lived in and understood what neighborhoods were all about,” Downing said.

Downing said Barksdale was ahead of Anniston in many ways.

“He wanted to do things in Anniston that we’re just now wrapping our arms around,” he said, noting such initiatives as creating a historic district.

Barksdale had to leave his post with the Spirit of Anniston due to health issues, and he returned with his late wife, Sharon, to be near family in Brandenburg.

In addition to Slinger, Barksdale is survived by siblings Ron Barksdale, Marty Barksdale and Kim Barksdale and his three children, Travis Barksdale, Erica Shields and Jennifer Drake.

Slinger said that Barksdale’s family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his honor to an area hospice or the local Main Street organizations he loved so much.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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