John Barnes recognized for decades long service to City of Three Rivers

Assistant City Attorney John Barnes addresses the Three Rivers City Commission during a meeting on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. (Deborah Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

Assistant City Attorney John Barnes was recognized by the Three Rivers City Commission Tuesday for over 30 years of dedicated service. Mayor Tom Lowry presented Barnes with a clock “in appreciation of over 30 years of dedicated public service as the assistant city attorney.” Barnes has held the post since 1990 and intends to retire.

“It’s not necessarily the most pleasant job because it often handles the criminal and complaint side of the city’s function,” Lowry said of the assistant city attorney position. “(John) has done a great job with that trying to find a middle road, sometimes trying to do justice and trying to get problems resolved. And we just want to acknowledge that and thank him for that. John is also very involved in the community, specifically with the Carnegie (Center for the Arts), he’s been on that board for many years, and other boards and functions both in the townships and the city. Thank you for that because that’s what our community needs.”

Barnes said it’s been a “great pleasure and honor” to work for the city. He added that Three Rivers is a good community, and he’s done his best to help make it better. Barnes began working under longtime City Attorney J. Patrick O’Malley in the spring of 1990. He was trained by O’Malley and now retired St. Joseph County Circuit Court Judge Bill Welty, who was the assistant city attorney at the time but wanted Barnes to “kind of take over his work,” so he could campaign to become district judge.

“That freed (Bill) up to campaign and then once he won the election, of course he had to immediately divest himself from private practice of law and become a judge,” Barnes said. “So he had me step into his shoes, and I just took over, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Barnes said “it’s nice to have continuity in small communities” with a job such as his because “you get a sense of its history, a little bit of perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise have.”

“And I’ve tried to act with the community’s best interest in mind,” Barnes said. “I want to thank Pat (O’Malley) for the opportunity. He’s been a great, great man to work with. I’ve actually been assistant city attorney the whole time working under Pat’s auspices. So I want to thank him, I want to thank the city and the community. You have all been wonderful. You know, the commission, has changed (over the years), the officers come and go. But the city continues on, I think it’s going good places, and it’s exciting to see that change. Thank you for the recognition.”

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor and publisher of Watershed Voice.