By BEN GRAFTON
In an interview on July 31 at the Hammock Bay Lake Club House, newly elected Freeport Mayor Russ Barley told the Herald-Breeze that he was born in DeFuniak Springs and in the mid-1960s he spent two years studying business at Okaloosa Walton Junior college. Following that he spent five years in the Navy doing administrative work and he spent time in Pensacola; Jackson, Miss.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and two years in Newfoundland.
Barley said, “Years ago I decided to open a flower shop. That led to 38 years as a floral designer. At one time I served as president and at another, executive secretary of the State Floral Association. I am also president emeritus of the Emerald Coast Floral Association. In 2000 I was named ‘Business Man of the Year’ and in January I opened a new shop in Freeport.”
An interesting point: Barley’s father was mayor of Freeport following the term of past Mayor Mickey Marse’s father.
Barley said, “It was not an easy decision to become a candidate for mayor, but I don’t feel Freeport is progressive enough. There is nothing for the people to do. I want to bring more business to the city and I believe that the new four-lane Highway 331 will help. I think I have the leadership skills and ability to do this.”
With his election, Barley became a member of the board of directors of the Walton County Economic Development Alliance.
He continued, “I want to learn what is in the city and what is not. I want to expand the city by annexation. I want more people to have a voice in what is done. I don’t want our people to travel so far to get to work.”
Barley has already proposed that the city convert the little-used Old Post Office into a Freeport museum and he wants to bring more culture to the city and events like the Niceville Mullet Festival.
He says that other things he would like to see include more beautification of the city, decorative signs, a walking tour, a preservation program for historic buildings, sidewalks between schools and a general cleaning-up process.