Horticulturist Rob Barbor resigning from post as city’s floral guru

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City horticulturist Rob Barbor with some of the 800 pounds of potatoes they city grew and donated to the Parish House in November 2018.

BUCKHANNON – One might say hometown horticulturists like Upshur County native Rob Barbor don’t exactly grow on trees.

But searching for a new horticulturist is exactly what the City of Buckhannon is preparing to do after Barbor, who has been employed as the city’s horticulturist for the past seven years, recently announced his resignation.

Approving Barbor’s resignation is listed on the agenda of council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. July 18 in City Hall. Upshur County born and raised, Barbor has made Buckhannon famous for its flowers across the state of West Virginia over the past several years.

In his resignation letter, Barbor said his last day will be July 26 and informed council he is transitioning out of the public sector to accept a position in the private sector.

“This position has provided me the opportunity to utilize my education while earning valuable experience,” Barbor wrote of his seven-year tenure with the city. “I feel quite fortunate to have been employed by my hometown and have always expressed this pride through my work.”

Although mayor David McCauley said he plans to deliver a more detailed statement at council’s meeting Thursday, he said Tuesday he has mixed emotions about Barbor’s resignation.

“Anytime we lose an employee of Rob Barbor’s talents, it’s a double-edged sword, our collective reaction to it, because we are sad for our organization to lose such an important player, but we are happy when better opportunities are accorded someone that’s close to us as they take on their next life’s challenge,” the mayor said.

Councilman and photographer Robbie Skinner, whose photos often feature Barbor’s colorful floral arrangements in downtown Buckhannon, said earlier this week he was deeply saddened to learn of Barbor’s departure, saying the city horticulturist has done an outstanding job throughout his tenure.

“He has undoubtedly played a huge role in beautifying our downtown, parks, river trail and streets,” Skinner said. “Our citizens and visitors alike remark daily how beautiful our town is during the spring and summer months.”

Buckhannon’s vividly colored, iconic flowers blooming at the Riverwalk by West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2018.

“The pride he took in his work for our hometown will be tough to match, but that same work ethic will provide great success in his future endeavors,” Skinner added.

Councilman CJ Rylands, also the executive director of Create Buckhannon, said Barbor, “has moved us a lot farther down the path than we would be without someone of his vision and energy.

“I think he’s done a fantastic job of expanding [the flower program and city’s green or environmentally-friendly initiatives], and he’s given it that professional touch,” Rylands said. “I think he’s taken it to a point, and he wants to move on, so we need to find someone who can continue us on this path of green initiatives and getting a lot of people involved in that.”

For his part, Barbor said there’s so many projects he’s engineered and guided to fruition over the past seven years, that it’s hard to choose just one that stands out above the others. That being said, he did mention the planting of fruit-bearing trees – apple trees and pear trees – in North Buckhannon Riverfront Park as one of the coolest tasks he’s undertaken as city horticulturist.

“I planted a lot of trees,” he said Wednesday. “They’ll be there long after I’m gone bearing fruit, so I guess, in a way, it’s kind of my legacy.”

Barbor said he’s thoroughly enjoyed creating a visual appealing community – especially since he’s grown up here.

“The ability to be able to express yourself creatively through floral displays is something I really liked,” he said. “I’ve just really enjoyed making Buckhannon beautiful and having people appreciate how beautiful it is, and I’m grateful for this opportunity I’ve had with the city.”

City councilwoman Pam Bucklew said she’ll miss Barbor — especially looking forward to the blossoming of his handiwork every spring and summer.

“Every where you go in this state, someone always comments on how beautiful our flowers and our downtown looks,” Bucklew said. “It will be hard to fill his shoes. I’ve always looked forward to each season what he would bring to our town.”

Although council has not yet approved the advertisement for a new city horticulturist, the item’s on the docket for its Thursday meeting. City officials hope to make an announcement about who will fill that post at their first meeting in September.