Mayor Barney Keller to be honored
BARSTOW • Barney Keller, Barstow’s first elected mayor, died in 1997, but his memory lives on in 2014.
On a Wednesday afternoon at the Uptowner Barber Shop on East Main Street, shop owner Carl Hunt and two customers immediately start talking whenever Keller’s name is mentioned.
“He was the best man at my mother’s wedding,” said a local man named Tom as he waited for a haircut. “Everybody knew Barney. He was Mr. Barstow. You couldn’t ask for a better person.”
The City Council voted unanimously Jan. 21 to approve a proposal that will change the name of Portales Court to Mayor Barney Keller Court.
Current mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre said the honor was long overdue for Keller, who was elected mayor in 1978 and served Barstow as a councilman and mayor for more than 20 years. In 1988, Keller was awarded the honor of mayor emeritus, the only person in the city’s history to earn that title.
Keller is remembered for his trademark green truck with a broom in the back. Lifelong Barstow residents and Desert Dispatch employees Kay Lovato and Bea Lint both mentioned the green truck as the first thing they remembered about Keller.
At the Jan. 21 council meeting, City Manager Curt Mitchell agreed.
“I think anyone that’s been around the city for a while remembers Barney driving his green pickup truck and waving to everyone,” Mitchell said.
Hunt, now 70, met Keller 35 years ago and agrees that the honor is long overdue.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hunt said. “He used to work right down here at the bank, and at Safeway. He was a butcher by trade. Everybody in those days did everything. When he got here, there wasn’t very much housing in this little town then.”
Hunt said the green truck was Keller’s unmistakable trademark.
“I believe it was a ’55 GMC green pickup truck, and everybody knew Barney because he had a broom in the back,” Hunt said. “Between that broom and him waving, there wasn’t anybody he ever missed. That was his trademark.
“When they see the green truck coming, and Barney’s blowing his horn and he’s waving — he was Mr. Barstow. He believed in this town. He was a little bit of a character, like most of us, but he had that great character behind him, because he did believe in this city. He was the right person at that time for the city.”