During his funeral service, Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney was remembered by family, friends and colleagues as a humble, kind man devoted to serving his family, religion and community.
“As I’ve talked with family members and friends to find different special memories to share, there was a central theme that started to come together … it was that my dad was patient and kind no matter what he was doing,” said Jeffrey Barney, the late mayor’s youngest son. “If you needed him, he was there for you. Each of you are here for different reasons because you knew my dad in a different capacity. He was a son, a brother, a father, a religious leader, a leader in the civic world. But no matter how you knew him, we loved and admired him. He was a great man. He was a wonderful man.”
Mayor Barney died on June 22, after battling a lung infection for several months. He was 74. His funeral service took place Saturday, July 9, at the LDS Stake Center, 22035 E. Ocotillo Road.
Barney was nearly a life-long resident of Queen Creek, his parents moving from Safford when he was just six months old in 1948. He spent 20 years on the town council where he played a significant role in the development of Queen Creek.
“Dad's political career started when I was in high school in 1998, first with the planning and zoning commission. Then in 2002, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in town council where he served until he became mayor in 2010,” Jeffrey Barney said. “He served until he passed. … The day that my dad passed he was on a call until five o'clock that evening. He worked until the very end.”
Before entering political life, Mayor Barney had been running his farm and was dedicated to helping all the members of his large extended family.
“Dad always worked on the farm growing up,” Jeffrey Barney said. “There was never a time that I never saw him put his all into farming.”
Jeffrey Barney said that in November “both mom and dad contracted [COVID-19]. Mom had it worse and dad didn't seem to have it too bad. Shortly after that, dad came down with pneumonia and a bad cough. This cough persisted, he went to the doctors and was treated though the cough remained.”
Feeling better, Mayor Barney took a long-planned trip to Africa in April. When he returned, his wife, Pam, took him straight to a hospital where he remained for three weeks.
“The doctor sent him home in May,” Jeffrey Barney said. “His cough came back as he continued to see specialists and get tests run again with each test coming back telling us he was either healthy or nothing was wrong. The hardest thing is we all thought he was getting better. We all thought things were looking up on the night he passed.”
During an emotional eulogy, Mayor Barney’s younger brother, Kenneth Barney, said his older brother had a way of making people feel special.
“I've talked to a couple of people about how he made them feel like they were the most important people in the world just because he listened, and he cared,” Kenneth Barney said.
Mayor Barney was ending his tenure as mayor this year, as he had chosen not to run for another term. Queen Creek Town Manager John Kross said there were plans to hold a celebration recognizing Mayor Barney’s public service and contributions to Queen Creek and the region.
“We're honoring those contributions here today, of course, and I’m sad that it's in this capacity,” Kross said, adding that a celebration of public service would take place at the town council’s July 20 meeting. “As you can imagine with 20 years on the council, nearly two-thirds of the town's official existence, Mayor Barney was involved in so many critical decisions.”
That included the building of two new parks, overseeing an accelerated road program, installing more than 40 traffic signals, acquiring three water companies and starting the town's first fire department in 2008. Mayor Barney’s final major project was the creation of the Queen Creek Police Department, which became active earlier this year.
Kross said that there were some who called Mayor Barney a “reluctant leader” who would attend other organizations’ events but was not the type of person who would “work the room.”
“Many never appreciated that that was never what he wanted. He did not want all of the attention. It was always in the spirit of service before self,” Kross said. “He felt humility and sincerity was the way at this time for this community, and he would probably disagree with me on this characterization, but he exhibited authentic leadership and yet his style certainly didn't hinder his effectiveness.
“I will say that if it was one of our town events it was a different matter. He really enjoyed attending every town event where he would proactively meet and interact with so many residents in one setting.”
Queen Creek Town Council Member Robin Benning remembered that when he first joined the council, Mayor Barney “took me under his wing.”
“I just enjoyed his presence, his sense of humor, his way of breaking really complex things down into simple ideas,” Benning said. “Whether he was running the meeting or asking for clarification … or just standing quietly, he was a force to be reckoned with. He accomplished so much. Raising a family, maintaining an agribusiness and somehow, he still found time to be a community leader.”
Jason Bagley, president of the Queen Creek Arizona North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “Gail was a very authentic man.”
“You knew where you stood with Gail. He wasn't a complicated person. He wasn't what perhaps the world might describe as a particularly sophisticated man, but Gail was connected to the land. Gail was connected to the process of life,” Bagley said. “Gail was a great patriot. He understood the principles upon which our country, our state, our community were founded and that it requires good people to be willing to step forward and to give of themselves. There are fewer people who are willing to do that today, unfortunately. But I’m so grateful for Gail’s example.”
Barney is survived by his wife, three children, 16 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Under the town code and policies and procedures, Vice Mayor Jeff Brown will continue to perform the duties as mayor until after elections. Current Council Member Julia Wheatley is running unopposed for mayor.