Shirley Barnett is a Philadelphian first, and that’s why she’s been a Parking Enforcement Officer (PEO) for more than 27 years. She is patient, soft-spoken and easy going, but she doesn’t let her good nature mislead anyone. Barnett is not one for nonsense, making her such an excellent asset to the PPA and our city in general.
“I was buying a home and I was working a part-time job at night and I didn’t like that. Plus I had small children at the time,” says Barnett about what first brought her to the PPA.
Through her hard work at the PPA, she’s been able to establish and lead a comfortable, happy life in South Philadelphia with her loving family. South Philly isn’t just Barnett’s home; it’s an area she patrolled for many years. In an area of the city that’s known for its eclectic neighborhoods like East Passyunk and Queen Village, Barnett knows it inside-and-out and has become a staple of the area.
“I was one of the first people that went down in South Philly on Passyunk Avenue and Snyder when they opened it up for enforcement,” she explains. “The people on Passyunk are pretty nice.”
She continued reflecting on the many years she spent patrolling this area, gaining a strong sense of community and making friends, especially with small business owners.
“I got to know the man who owned a flower shop and when I lost family members I would go to him and buy flowers,” says Barnett.
Barnett forged a bond during her years in South Philly, but over the last five years she’s been stationed in North Philadelphia near Temple University where she works the early shift.
She prefers this time of day saying, “A lot of people aren’t out [and] it’s not as congested as Center City, so I like it up at North Broad Street.”
With this shift, it’s early to bed and early to rise for Barnett. Bedtime comes around 7 p.m. so she can be well-rested for her 5 a.m. wake up time. While that’s about 10 solid hours of sleep, as Barnett puts it, “The most important thing about this job is [that], you need rest!”
Walking around all day and interacting with numerous people can be taxing, on some days more than others.
Barnett feels one of the hardest parts of patrolling is having to ticket near a hospital. The last thing she wants to do is upset someone who may have just lost a loved one. While this is unfortunate, Barnett is just doing her job, and there are tools that can help find parking nearby, which can be useful when trying to find parking quickly. This is something people can lose sight of in the heat of the moment. After all, even Barnett herself has been ticketed over the years. She’s had about three or four tickets.
On being ticketed, she chuckles, “I didn’t like it! I guess I can dish it out but I can’t take it.”
Despite all of the difficulties a PEO faces, Barnett has received plenty of positive feedback from the communities she has served. Residents of two hour parking streets particularly appreciate all that Barnett has done for them.
“I’m glad to see you today, this car has been here forever!” is something Barnett often heard from small business owners along Passyunk who rely on PEOs to keep things running smoothly on their block.
When Barnett isn’t patrolling the streets of Philadelphia she likes to work on puzzles and crochet, a testament to her patience on and off duty. When she retires next year, Barnett hopes to travel and explore somewhere new.
“The first thing I want to do, for some reason, is a road trip. I want to get on 95 and just keep going as far as I can.”