“We need you”, the white haired man said as he sat across from my desk. “It is your time for this job. I promise I’ll help you every step of the way.”
These were the words of the very first person to contact me about running for Mayor. His name was Charles Barineau, and if you have any roots in Seminole County, you know who I am talking about.
The entire community and the people he touched far and wide are mourning Rev. Barineau’s untimely death this past week. Social media, particularly Facebook, have given many an opportunity to pay public tribute to this good and decent man.
New Hope Assembly sits on the edge of town, a church rooted in the Gospel and dedicated to loving and caring for everyone, not just the members of their congregation. That was Charles’ way and he was nothing if not a wonderful teacher.
He was a preacher that caught your ear and tugged at your heart, no matter your denomination or upbringing. He wasn’t ever at a loss of words, whether quoting scripture or giving his own life experiences.
As a pastor, he was without equal. The Dean of the Donalsonville Ministerial Association, the community was his congregation and its people were his flock. He fostered second chances, exhibited grace and helped all who sought his help and guidance.
It was as a friend that I had my own personal connection with this man. He usually greeted me with the words “Brother” or “Friend”. “I need to put a bug in your ear,” he might say if we ran into each other at the post office. It was never anything that he needed personally, but something that would benefit others, including the town.
He served as a city councilman for many years, and for the past several years had been the Mayor Pro Tem. He never wavered in his belief for godly decisions, but he also believed in the separation of church and state.
Charles set expectations and believed in holding people accountable. He was capable of disagreeing with you about a city issue, but he would listen to others and never held a grudge. He was an example of a Godly man, but also an example of a community servant. Those aren’t always easy things to be at the same time.
Charles leaves behind for the moment, a beautiful wife and family, a grieving church, a shocked community, a lifetime of friends, and hundreds of people, known and unknown, whose lives he touched at just the right time.
He also leaves behind a city that he loved, served, and guided for decades. His dreams for the city were great and his legacy will still live long after I am gone. We honor his life by following his example as a teacher, preacher, pastor and friend.
Dan Ponder currently serves as the Mayor of Donalsonville and can be reached at [email protected].