Rep. Barnhart leaving General Assembly

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

By Scott Jenkins
CONCORD — N.C. Rep. Jeff Barnhart, a Republican from Cabarrus County, is retiring from the General Assembly on Sept. 30, in the middle of his sixth term in the State House, to take a job with lobbying firm McGuireWoods Consulting.
While he’s prohibited from directly lobbying the General Assembly for six months or the end of the current session, whichever comes later, Barnhart said he’ll be doing policy work, research and business development for the firm.
Members of the Cabarrus County Republican Party’s executive committee who live in the 82nd District now represented by Barnhart will vote on someone to serve out his term. That name will be sent to Gov. Beverly Perdue, who formally appoints the new legislator.
Barnhart said Tuesday that after holding public office for 21 years — 10 as a Cabarrus County commissioner and 11 as a state representative — he had been thinking the past couple of years about moving fully into the private sector.
“In a citizen legislature, it’s difficult to try to make a living, hold down jobs … It’s not always a thankful position,” Barnhart said. He also noted that when he was first elected to public office, his son was 1 year old. Now, he’s a 21-year-old college senior.
“I don’t begrudge anything I’ve done in the elected arena, but it’s been hard on my family, financially and time-wise,” he said.
Barnhart begins Oct. 1 as a senior vice president working with McGuireWoods’ government affairs team. He’ll continue to live in Concord and have offices in the firm’s Charlotte and Raleigh locations.
He said the move is something he’s been thinking about a couple of years and that he was approached by several potential employers. But he knows a number of McGuireWoods executives and said that recently, he jokingly asked Harry Kaplan, senior vice president of North Carolina Government Relations for the company, when his office would be ready.
That led to more serious talks and a job offer.
“Jeff has had a remarkable career serving the people of North Carolina and working with businesses and community leaders to grow the economy and expand opportunities for its citizens throughout the state,” Kaplan said in a McGuireWoods press release. “His experience will be exceedingly valuable to both clients and our North Carolina staff.”
The press release noted Barnhart was most recently co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee “and was a strong healthcare proponent, earning numerous recognitions from many organizations.”
Barnhart recently stepped down from his position as CEO of Cabarrus Community Health Centers Inc. after three years. He sponsored a bill that will make Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare the statewide model for government-funded mental health and substance abuse treatment.
In the McGuireWoods press release, Barnhart said the “ability to utilize my health care experience while also getting to work on other issues in different industries was personally very appealing to me.”
Barnhart also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1978 to 1982, earning the Air Force Commendation Medal. He earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Southern Illinois University and worked 10 years for IBM.
Barnhart called Cabarrus County, which he has represented in the General Assembly with fellow Republicans Rep. Linda Johnson of Kannapolis and Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord, “easy … to represent” because of its accomplishments.
“It honestly has been an honor serving Cabarrus County and this region. There are so many things we have done in this area,” he said. “It’s had its challenges, but it’s been good.”
McGuireWoods Consulting, a subsidiary of the law firm McGuireWoods LLP, also has offices in Wilmington, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Washington, D.C., Richmond, Charlottesville and Tysons Corner in Virginia, Chicago and Springfield in Illinois and Bucharest, Romania.