Mr. Barlow’s Wild Ride

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Commissioner David Barlow set his sights on becoming a school bus driver as a new way to serve his community after losing his bid for reelection. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

It’s been a life of service for David Barlow. There were the tours of duty in Vietnam, the years working on a ranch, the shared service with his wife. Now, Barlow is on a new route. After four years as a County Commissioner, he is working with the children of our community as a school bus driver.
“I wanted to drive a bus because I thought what better way for a Commissioner to serve the community than by driving their children to school,” said Barlow. “That was and is my primary reason for driving.”
Service is what Barlow has always known to do. After working on a ranch growing up in Arkansas, he volunteered for the Army in 1966, serving two tours in Vietnam. That informs his fierce loyalty to his country.
“I’m a patriot through and through. Anything that’s got the flag on it is near and dear to my heart,” Barlow said at his final county meeting.
Barlow was a business owner in Mississippi before moving to Tyrone with his wife, Cherie, to be closer to their children and grandchildren. He quickly got involved in his new community, leading up to a successful run for County Commission under the motto “Faith, Family, and Fayette County.” Among the many causes he championed were the McIntosh Trail Community Service Board and Meals on Wheels, where he delivers food to seniors in need once a week with his wife.
Those jaunts around town led him to his next adventure. Back in 2014, he first started seeing the buses with banners calling for new drivers. Barlow went to the Board of Education to get more information, and, though he was too busy to commit at the time, he kept it in the back of his mind. When he lost his reelection bid this year, he knew right where he was heading.
Barlow was surprised and impressed by how thorough the training is to become a driver for Fayette County Public Schools. After the application and a background check, there is a week-long training course.
“It’s very rigorous,” he noted. “You go through all of the policies and procedures regarding not only the Board of Education, but how it relates to transportation because the two are intertwined.”
You have to learn about the inner workings of the bus itself, should you experience mechanical issues on the road, then, of course, you have to learn how to handle such a large vehicle. Those years on the ranch helped prepare him.
“The driving was the easiest part for me,” said Barlow, who regularly worked swathers, bale wagons, and other large commercial vehicles on the ranch.
The long preparation is in the name of one very important purpose.
“Safety is the number one concern,” he said. “Everything we do is to be sure we get the children safely to and from their residence to school and back.”
Barlow started in recent weeks as a substitute driver, picking up routes as needed. It’s been an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
“What I’ve enjoyed the most and what’s been the biggest challenge has been the students,” he said. “In the morning time, they’re pretty quiet. In the afternoon, it’s like a jailbreak. They’ve been drinking their cokes, and they’ve had their sugar, and they’re all fired up. They’ve been cooped up all day, and they’re ready to go.”
He hopes to get a full-time route soon, and he looks forward to getting to know his regular riders.
“When I get a (full-time) route, what I intend to do is I’m going to be Captain America, and I’m going to have a busload of heroes,” said Barlow, who looks forward to the opportunity to bond with his riders and show them a friendly face every day. “I’ll be the first one they see in the morning, and the last one they see in the afternoon.”
If they follow their driver, those students will be on their own way to a life of service.

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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