Barnhart steps down to join consulting firm

Cabarrus Republican Jeff Barnhart is leaving the state House after eleven years to join powerhouse consulting firm McGuireWoods. He's the third GOP lawmaker to step down this summer.

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Rep. Jeff Barnhart, R-District 82 (Cabarrus County)
Laura Leslie

Cabarrus Republican Jeff Barnhart is leaving the state House after eleven years to join powerhouse consulting firm McGuireWoods.

Barnhart's statement, released at 11:26 am, says his resignation is effective Sept. 30th.

“It has been my honor to serve the people of Cabarrus County for the past eleven years in Raleigh,” Barnhart said. “However, the time has come for me to step aside and allow someone else the opportunity to serve our county. It has been a wonderful experience and I cherish the many friends I have made through my years of public service.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis commented on Barnhart’s retirement: "Jeff Barnhart is a dedicated public servant and an extremely talented legislator. He has been a critical component of the House majority, and during his years in the House, he has earned a reputation as a consensus builder and a policy specialist. We will miss his presence in the House, but I'm confident he will excel in any future endeavors."

A call to Barnhart for more information went unanswered. But additional details showed up in my email inbox at 1:01pm, in the form of a press release from McGuireWoods, a high-powered consulting and lobbying firm with offices in Raleigh.

McGuireWoods Consulting is pleased to announce that Jeffrey L. Barnhart, who announced today that he has resigned from the North Carolina House of Representatives effective September 30, will join the firm on October 1 as a senior vice president. He will work out of the firm’s Raleigh and Charlotte offices and focus on assisting clients and helping the firm grow its National and Multistate practice in the southeast.

“We are very excited to have Jeff Barnhart join our growing government affairs team in North Carolina,” said Harry Kaplan, senior vice president of North Carolina Government Relations. “Jeff has had a remarkable career serving the people of North Carolina and working with businesses and community leaders to grow the economy and expand opportunities for its citizens throughout the State. His experience will be exceedingly valuable to both clients and our North Carolina staff.”

“We have long admired Jeff for his accomplishments and service to the citizens of North Carolina,” said John Fennebresque, a partner with McGuireWoods LLP. “His arrival to the firm will help expand our healthcare practice and capabilities in North Carolina.”

And from Barnhart, in the McGuireWoods release:

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to join such a well respected firm with a great team of professionals across the country,” said Barnhart. “In addition to the firm’s great reputation and capabilities throughout the southeast, the ability to utilize my healthcare experience while also getting to work on other issues in different industries was personally very appealing to me.” 

This past session, Barnhart was one of the four "Big Chairs" of House Appropriations.  Prior to that, under the Democrats, he was the ranking minority member on the budget subcommittee for Health and Human Services.     

Changing hats 

Under the state's current ethics laws, legislators and other top officials cannot register as lobbyists for six months after leaving office, and they can't lobby during a session in which they have served. Should he decide to do so, Barnhart would become eligible to lobby after the end of the 2012 regular session.   

Two other longtime Republican lawmakers have also announced their resignations. Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln, announced last month he's stepping down from his House seat after just three years in his current tenure, although he served five earlier terms from 1985-93. There's no word yet on whether he intends to return to Raleigh again.

And longtime legislator Debbie Clary, R-Cleveland, has also said she's stepping down as of November 2011.  Clary served 7 terms in the House before moving to the Senate in 2008.  She was double-bunked in the new redistricting map with freshman Senator Warren Daniel, R-Burke. Clary has already announced she plans to become a contract lobbyist. 

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