Letter: Barnes is a man of integrity, give him a chance

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Editor of the Reformer,

I was pleased to read Chris Mays' article in the Brattleboro Reformer on June 1 about the Hermitage's plans to restructure. I hope that the Hermitage will re-emerge successfully, and that Jim Barnes will be given the opportunity to make good as he has done consistently throughout his career. It is well recognized that the Hermitage has fallen on tough times and many creditors are owed money. But please also understand what is far less recognized — that Jim is a man of honor, integrity and compassion. He will strive to do everything within his power to make things right, given the chance.

I first met Jim when we worked together in Connecticut at Oakleaf Waste Management from 2005-2011 — a time when we were taking Oakleaf, the company he started from scratch in 1995, to its meteoric growth as a $650 million successful, profitable enterprise. Today I live and work in Vermont. A place I love and have called home since 2012. On many occasions, I saw Jim's compassion and his desire to help others regardless of the cost or sacrifice. On one occasion I was traveling with Jim to Minneapolis for a business meeting. When we arrived, my back suddenly went out and I was unable to move. Jim helped rush me to the nearest emergency room where I was treated promptly. I knew he needed to get back to Connecticut, so I began to make arrangements for my wife to fly out to Minnesota to be with me. Jim made it clear to me that that wouldn't be necessary. He said to me, and I'll never forget his exact words, "Jim Barnes leaves no man behind." Here I was with the most successful person I've ever met, a former winner of Ernst and Young's National Entrepreneur of the Year award, and he was more concerned about me than returning to his own family or to work. Somehow, though I could still barely move, Jim got me discharged from the hospital, pushed me in a wheelchair through the airport, and we caught the next flight later that night.

Jim is an honest businessman and more importantly a great person. Please just give him a chance to demonstrate that he will not leave Vermont behind.

Marc Okrant

White River Junction, June 6

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