Pisgah Legal Services’ longtime leader announces retirement

After more than 40 years of service, Jim Barrett will step down in August 2024 from the regional, anti-poverty nonprofit.

Barrett, CEO of Pisgah Legal Services, announced his plan to retire in August of 2024.

“I am incredibly grateful to have had the privilege of working at Pisgah Legal for more than 40 years, and leading the organization for 30 of those years,” said Barrett. “I have witnessed firsthand the difference that legal aid can make in the lives of our clients, and I am immensely proud of the work we have accomplished together. I leave the organization with a sense of fulfillment and optimism for its future.”

John Noor, Chair of Pisgah Legal’s Board of Directors will lead the organization’s executive search. The Executive Search Committee will consist of fellow Board members and experienced staff. The Board plans to retain the services of a professional search firm to assist in the process and to ensure a smooth transition.

For forty-five years, Pisgah Legal Services has addressed the causes of poverty with its clients. The work of the nonprofit focuses on four key areas: access to health care, decent and affordable housing, safety from physical abuse, and income. Pisgah Legal has expertise in poverty law in the following areas:  community economic development, immigration, tax, housing, family/domestic violence, consumer protection, health, criminal records expungement and drivers’ license restoration, and government benefits.

Jim Barrett has served as executive director of the Western North Carolina anti-poverty nonprofit since 1993. He came to Pisgah Legal as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow in 1983 and worked with the organization as a staff attorney for ten years before becoming its executive director.

At that time, the community-based legal aid program consisted of a staff of fifteen and several volunteer attorneys to supplement four staff attorneys in an Asheville office. The service area was six counties: Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, and Transylvania.

Under Barrett’s leadership, Pisgah Legal has grown to a staff of 130 to serve more than twenty-one thousand people per year. The staff includes 39 attorneys whose poverty law efforts are combined with free legal assistance from 250 active volunteer attorneys. With incredible community support, the organization has expanded to include fifteen programs and an array of social services to work with its clients to help them escape poverty, or in some cases, to cope with living on fixed incomes due to age or disabilities. Staff members include social workers, health insurance navigators, tax credit advocates, and Medicaid Ombudsmen. Nearly 100 non-attorney volunteers help the organization achieve its mission.

Pisgah Legal serves the eighteen westernmost counties of the Appalachian region of North Carolina and has eighteen office locations to be accessible to the low-income clients who cannot afford to pay for civil legal services. The anti-poverty organization depends on donations, foundation grants, and government contracts to deliver holistic services to address the root causes of poverty.

Barrett received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award in 2018 from Governor Roy Cooper. One of the state’s highest civilian honors, the award is reserved for those who have made significant contributions to the state and their community. Pisgah Legal Services has earned Charity Navigator and Candid’s highest ratings for stewardship. It is recognized nationally for its ability to expand services in rural counties of the Appalachian region.

For more information about Pisgah Legal Services, click HERE.

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