Byrne to hand over reins of center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 16, 1999

One of Barbara Byrne’s first goals when she became director of the Natchez Senior Citizen Center in 1992 was renovation.

Now, with the smell of fresh paint in the air at the old Carpenter School on Martin Luther King Jr. Street, she is preparing to retire.

Byrne will stay on as assistant director to oversee continuing renovations while Deputy City Clerk Sabrena Bartley takes over as director Jan. 1.

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&uot;I feel Sabrena is going to bring some fresh ideas. It’s time for some new blood,&uot; said Byrne, who said she is ready to try some new things.

Under the roof at the center, seniors come five days a week to participate in group activities, watch performances and programs, eat lunch and play games such as dominoes and pool.

But under the umbrella of Bartley’s new position as director of senior services for the City of Natchez, there are even more activities.

&uot;It’s not just the senior center; it’s a lot of other things,&uot; Byrne said.

The director also oversees the Natchez Transit Authority, which includes the city’s public transportation. It’s a demanding job Byrne knows her successor is ready for.

Bartley has already been working with the center this year because it is short-staffed. Bartley said she is impressed by the dedication the staff shows towards the seniors.

&uot;They really are committed,&uot; she said.

&uot;They’re so compassionate of the seniors and their needs,&uot; Byrne said. &uot;And they have so many needs.&uot;

Bartley said the new job is just what she’s been looking for. She has had experience managing non-profit programs in the past. &uot;I had been hoping to put to use some of the training I had with the city in a broader sense,&uot; she said.

Bartley said one of her goals is to seek new funding sources for the senior center. The center gets its funding from the city and county, Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District and United Way through the Council on Aging. The transit authority receives federal money through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Seniors do not have to pay for their meals or activities at the center, but donations are accepted and encouraged, Byrne said.

Renovations at the center include a new elevator and outside ramp, refinished wood floors, paint, roof repairs and new central heat and air conditioning.

Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said the transition between Byrne and Bartley will be a smooth one because Byrne will stay at the center to oversee the renovations.

&uot;It frees Sabrena to focus on operations,&uot; he said.

&uot;Mrs. Byrne and I are going to have one of the smoothest transitions ever,&uot; Bartley said. &uot;She has all of the expertise, and I have all of the enthusiasm.&uot;