Five Questions with Dana Barker: Learning to make the tough calls

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 2, 2014 

You have a number of part-time jobs and a fulltime job at TSYS. How do you juggle it all?

Coordination is the key. Planning my schedule days and weeks in advance helps. I still have a BlackBerry because it's the best at keeping everything together communication-wise. The fun days are when I arrive at WLTZ at 3 a.m. to fill in doing weather in the mornings then leave around 8 a.m. to go work a full shift at TSYS.

Luckily, most of the work for the Cottonmouths and Lions is during nights and weekends, but sometimes I'll take a "working lunch" to catch up on things I'm doing for them too. I've been blessed to have great management and work for a great company at TSYS that allows me to keep that work-life balance.

As a high school football official, what is the toughest part of the job?

You can never show hesitation or indecision when making a call or a coach will eat you alive. My father-in-law was a revered lacrosse referee in Maryland, and he put it quite simply: "sell the call." Also, one of the toughest things, especially for new officials like myself, is to be open to constructive criticism and advice from fellow officials on your crew. I'm the opposite, though: I solicit feedback from the guys I'm working with before they even get a chance to say anything.

As the PA announcer for the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey club, what is the best music for a hockey brawl?

There's the old standbys like "Crazy Train" from Ozzy, "Fight for Your Right" by the Beastie Boys, harder stuff like "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, and sometimes I'll do a little hip hop like "Mama Said Knock You Out" from LL Cool J or "It's a Fight" by Three 6 Mafia. If the fight turns sour, I might get the crowd laughing with "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon. I'm constantly listening to the radio for new and fresh ideas … if I hear a song I like, I'll jot down some lyrics and look it up when I get a chance.

You also work with the Columbus Lions arena football team. What do you see as the future of minor league hockey and football in Columbus?

I think minor league hockey and football can both have long futures here. The "honeymoon" periods for both teams in the community are long gone, so it takes more effort now than just opening the doors and playing the games. I think each team has made some good marketing efforts over the past year. The Snakes are actually seeing an uptick in attendance, and hopefully the Lions will follow suit. Above all, it's a requirement this day and age to have an engaging social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and now even through apps like Instagram and Pinterest.

What is the best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

There's several. First, location. There's a world-class big city experience just 90 minutes away in Atlanta. Beautiful beaches are three hours to our south and mountains (the ones in Harris County don't count) three hours north. The ongoing revival of downtown Columbus has been nothing short of remarkable. Dr. Tim Mescon has done yeoman's work putting Columbus State on the map regionally and long remove it from the "Cody Road High" days. Also, the cost of living here can't be beat. I constantly amaze my out-of-town friends with what my wife and I are paying for our housing and amenities here.


Name: Dana Barker

Age: 34

Job: Software analyst at TSYS (full-time) and various part-time gigs. Fill-in AM/social media meteorologist at WLTZ; Director of Communications for the Columbus Lions; PA announcer and in-house DJ for the Lions and Columbus Cottonmouths; football official for the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

Hometown: Born in New Jersey, but grew up in Columbus from age 3

Current home: Smiths Station

Family: Wife, Sarah, elementary school teacher in Auburn

Education: Shaw High School; BA in Communication from CSU; BS in Geosciences/Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State; will graduate this summer with Masters in Applied Meteorology from Mississippi State

Favorite book: Anything by Tom Clancy (RIP)

Favorite movie: Tough one, but will go with “Clerks.”

Favorite restaurant: Taco Mac (We need one in Columbus!)

Favorite quote: “Always remember that Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David.” — Ralph “Shug” Jordan, former Auburn head football coach

Best concert attended: Incubus and Linkin Park in the rain at Verizon Ampitheatre in Atlanta

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