Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean announced Wednesday that former mayor of Savannah and Hardin County Joe Barker is joining his campaign full-time, leaving his position as executive director of the Southwest Tennessee Development District.
Barker, a resident of Jackson, will serve as the campaign’s full-time rural economic adviser.
The former rural mayor has been involved in rural economic development for more than three decades at the local, regional, state and national levels.
“Karl listens to people who have walked the walk. We need someone who tells the truth, someone we can trust and will have the confidence to invest in rural Tennessee,” Barker said. “For too long folks in small communities, especially us in West Tennessee, have been forgotten, and that will all change when Karl Dean is governor. I am ready to work full-time to make sure that happens.”
Barker has a long history of supporting rural development efforts in Tennessee. He has been involved with the Memphis Regional Megasite since day one and currently serves on the Authority Board and led efforts to complete the infrastructure for the project.
Under Gov. Phil Bredesen, Barker served as an assistant commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development and was instrumental in the creation of the Retire Tennessee and Main Street Tennessee programs.
Additionally, he was instrumental in starting the Tennessee Basic Economic Development Course as director of Tennessee Tomorrow, a rural public-private sector think tank. The program was later adopted by the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services.
“I am thrilled to have Joe join the campaign full-time. He is the perfect fit because he has made it his life’s work to make sure no community feels forgotten,” Dean said. “With his help, we will do what it takes to get the Memphis Regional Megasite shovel-ready and create new development opportunities statewide.”