Drew Barrett has spent the last 16 years as a high school football official.
Barrett is trading that in for … well, he will find out soon enough.
The 39-year-old Tazewell native has been hired as the new athletic director at Salem High School.
Barrett replaces recently retired Chris King in a job that involves a variety of responsibilities that might not be readily apparent until one lands squarely on his desk.
Formerly a guidance counselor at the high school, Barrett said he was hoping King would remain Salem’s AD through the 2021-22 school year.
Barrett wanted to officiate football games this fall and get some valuable on-the-job experience, but with a son as a rising Salem senior, King decided 30 years in public education were enough.
“I thought he had one more year,” Barrett said. “He kind of made this decision pretty late. He just decided, ‘I’m going to enjoy my son’s senior year, go to the games and do what I want.’ I get it.”
Barrett, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, entered public education after a career as an engineer, first for Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern and later for Aecom Technology after the California-based company merged with the local group.
Barrett helped design a variety of local projects, including the roundabout on Merriman Road adjacent to South County Library.
After the merger, Barrett found himself working on international projects and thought he might wind up moving out of the Roanoke Valley to Northern Virginia.
“I liked engineering but we merged. I went from doing a lot here in Roanoke to doing a lot of things [remotely] in Dubai,” he said. “Which was pretty cool but you lost a lot of that local feel, like, ‘Hey, that’s the bridge I designed.’
“I’m from Tazewell, Roanoke is big enough for me. I don’t want to go to Arlington. So I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll be a math teacher and football coach.’ “
Barrett said he enjoyed being a school counselor but found that the paperwork was becoming excessive to he applied for the AD job.
“I was ready to make the transition, but knew at a place like Salem there was going to be a lot of interest,” he said. “And rightfully so, the facilities and the community support, you’re not going to find a public high school any better.”
He said he hopes to continue working as a football replay official for the Southern Conference on fall Saturdays for one more year.
His Monday through Friday job will be busy enough.
“There is so much going on, so much that people don’t even know about,” he said. “You don’t just show up when the game happens. A lot of people don’t even know that. I know there’s a lot to it. I know it’s a lot of time. It’s going to be a learning curve, but I really love sports.”
Barrett’s initial priorities are hiring a boys track and field coach and preparing for the upcoming fall sports season.
He is very curious to see what sort of spectator turnout there will be for Salem’s 10-time state football championship team this fall, as long as there are no COVID-19 restrictions on attendance.
The Spartans’ first two games are at home against Franklin County and Martinsburg (W.Va.).
“Even before COVID, we started seeing that people weren’t going to the games as much, across the board,” Barrett said. “Salem’s lucky [but] I started seeing that, even officiating.
“With the start of having two home games and people not having been able to go anywhere, we’re hoping for some big gates and trying to get back on track.”
Contact Robert Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 981-3123