By Cary Shuman
Gordon “Buzzy” Barton took the Lynn English High School boys basketball team to five NEC titles and the Division 1 state final in 2009, following up on an 18-2 regular season as the girls basketball coach a decade earlier.
Barton has been a highly respected leader in venues beyond the basketball court as well. The popular, 65-year-old lifelong Lynn resident is seeking re-election as a councillor-at-large in Tuesday’s city election.
“My father’s name was Gordon and my sisters used to call me “Brother” and my mother didn’t want that to stick, so she came up with Buzzy,” said Barton, explaining his well-known nickname.
His mother, Virginia Barton, was the parents’ coordinator for the Lynn School Department and a community activist who lived in Lynn her entire life.
“My mother raised five girls and myself,” said Barton. “She adopted two other girls as well, so I was surrounded by females. My mother was a tremendous influence in my life. She taught me the values of life. Her favorite saying was, ‘Don’t look down on anybody unless you’re looking down to help them up.”
His sister, Pat Barton, is a lifelong educator and a retired principal at Pickering School and the Fecteau-Leary School.
Buzzy Barton attended Ingalls School, Eastern Junior High School and graduated from Lynn English School in 1972. He holds the distinction of playing five varsity sports in one school year: soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and track.
He became a firefighter in 1976 and served 28 years in the Lynn Fire Department, retiring with a disability following an injury he sustained while battling a house fire. He rose through the ranks of the Lynn Firefighters Union, moving from the executive board to vice president and ultimately becoming union president.
“I totally respect what our Lynn firefighters do each day on the job,” said Barton. “I’ve been supportive of our fire department in my years on the City Council.”
Barton made his first run for a councillor-at-large seat in 2011 and won a seat with a third-place finish in the final election.
“It was a lot of hard work,” recalled Barton. “I think I won because of the way I treat people and I’m a people’s person. My strength is interacting with people one on one. I’m not a computer guy. If someone calls me up, I answer their calls or I go to their house and they can show me what the problem is and I handle it that way.”
Barton topped the ticket in his second run and was re-elected to his third term in 2015.
Interestingly Barton reunited with Brian LaPierre on the City Council at that time. “Brian was a teacher and assistant athletic director at English when I was a basketball coach,” said Barton.
Barton said the current Council has functioned very well as a group.
“This Council works very well together,” said Barton. “Since I’ve been on the City Council, this has been my favorite group because it seems like we’re all on the same page, working to move the city forward. Everybody knows we have some financial struggles, but I don’t think it’s time to change the Council completely because there’s some experienced and hard-working councillor who just want to see this city move forward.”
As Barton looks ahead to Tuesday’s election, he feels confident about his chances, but is taking nothing for granted.
“I’m working hard and I feel good about my campaign and my record of accomplishments,” said Barton. “Anything you do in life, you get what you put in to it – and I think I’ve really worked hard and I’ve been doing the right thing for the people of the city of Lynn.”
Barton was asked to list his numerous accomplishments as a city councillor, but he began his response with his “biggest accomplishment” in life.
“My biggest accomplishment in life is 31 years of sobriety,” he said. “Sept. 29 was 31 years of sobriety. I was a drinker. But I put it aside and it turned my life around. I just looked in the mirror and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ “I went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and if I know someone today who needs help, I’ll take them to the meetings. I sit down and talk to a lot of people who are struggling out there.”
He points to the construction of the Thurgood Marshall Middle School as his biggest accomplishment on the City Council.
“I worked very hard for a new school,” said Barton. “[City Council President] Darren Cyr and I had a vision of where the Marshall Middle School should be located. We had neighborhood meetings, coffee hours, and cookouts and that helped make that project go as smoothly as it went. The day that school opened was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
Barton lives in the neighborhood of the new school. “Everybody talked about the traffic but there are no issues. The kids get out of school at 2:30 and by 2:55, you don’t see a kid, a car, or a bus.”
Barton pledged to work even harder to bring two other new schools to Lynn. A proposal to build two new middle schools was defeated in an election in March.
“I’m going to make sure it happens the right way,” said Barton. “The neighbors and the citizens of Lynn must have input where the schools are going to be built.”
Buzzy Barton’s love of this city cannot be questioned. His popularity and likability factor were on display during a newspaper interview at Brothers Deli when several diners approached to wish him luck in the election.
“I love Lynn,” he said. “I’ve lived in Lynn for 65 years. There’s no place I’d rather be.”