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Sackett at home in Spencer law office

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Barry Sackett has followed in his parents' footsteps to practice law in Spencer.
(Photo by Gabe Licht) [Order this photo]
As a young law school graduate, Barry Sackett had no intention of staying in the Spencer area long-term.

"I was anxious to see the world," Sackett said.

Sackett's path went several directions before leading him back to Spencer, where he has opened Sackett Law Office.

Sackett graduated from Spencer High School in 1987, after serving as a page in the Iowa Senate, and went on to the University of Iowa to major in economics and finance before graduating from law school there in 1993.

From there, his experiences included a stint as a tax lawyer for a lobbying coalition in Washington, D.C., assisting his father Bill Sackett with a lengthy case and working for what was then Norwest Title Company, before joining his brothers Frank and Morgan in California.

"In Lake Tahoe, I had worked as a controller for a construction company, and parlayed that into working for a recycling company that recycled construction waste in the Los Angeles area," Sackett said. "It was an interesting job, a big job with a big company dealing with tough economic times."

He moved closer to the coast to work with Brain Technologies, which had been affected by the technology bubble burst.

"They struggled quite a bit, so my ability to come in as a finance person and in-house counsel was attractive to them," Sackett said. "We get them right-sized and they're still going strong to this day. It's kind of a neat story."

As an enthusiast of skateboards and snowboards, Sackett found himself working as controller and inside counsel for Arbor Collective in Venice, Calif.

But it was an Okoboji connection that led him to his wife, JoAnne.

"Some of our friends from Okoboji moved out there," Sackett said. "His wife taught in China for a year and my wife was in the same program with her. When they got back, we were in the same circle of friends. I taught her how to surf and now she surfs better than I do."

As his father's retirement neared, Sackett had a decision to make.

"If he retired and no one was there, the firm my grandfather had and my father and my mother had would be no more," Sackett said.

He and JoAnne had further motivation to move home.

"My wife and I were looking to have kids and raising kids in Los Angeles is a daunting prospect," Sackett said.

They moved back to Iowa in 2007 and have two children -- 4-year-old Tahoe and 2-year-old Venice -- with plans to adopt a third child in the near future.

Sackett's office in Milford was seeing about 30 to 40 percent of their clients driving up from Spencer, so Sackett began plans to open an office here.

Those plans included working with Assistant City Attorney Brad Howe.

"We decided, starting the beginning of this year, I'd start coming down one day a week, meeting with my Spencer clients with the idea that, over a couple years, I would start meeting some of his clients as he moved toward retirement so he could cut back some," Sackett said. "I was supposed to start on Tuesday. On Saturday, I got a call that he had died of a heart attack."

The loss shook Sackett, along with the community of Spencer.

At the same time, Sackett was set to travel to India as part of his Master of Business Administration program at the University of Minnesota.

"I almost didn't go," Sackett said. "It was a tough time."

Ultimately, he kept his travel plans, purchased Howe's firm and kept it intact.

"I informed his clients that I had purchased it and most of them stayed," Sackett said. "Some of his clients had been my mother's clients."

Sackett refers to himself as a transactional lawyer, experienced in mergers, start-up companies and other business and real estate transactions.

He's excited to build upon his family heritage in northwest Iowa and believes the area has a lot going for it.

"I think there's a ton of opportunity here," Sackett said. "The agricultural sector is extremely strong and getting stronger. There's a lot of capital that's been created through farming operations and through the appreciation of farmland prices. There's opportunities to do things here. I'm interested in green technologies. There are all kinds of opportunities in wind energy and alternative biofuels."

He knows the importance of the global market, and saw it firsthand on his trip to India.

"Their economy is, in a lot of ways, more attractive than our economy," Sackett said. "If they can build a middle class, they'll have a bigger customer base than we do."

Sackett met with executives from both India-based and U.S.-based companies, as well as a nongovernmental organization that feeds 10 million children daily and a cardiac surgeon who has found a way to make cardiac procedures more affordable.

"They continue to have more people than we do, so what does that mean for their economy and our economy?" Sackett asked. "There are a lot of opportunities."

Back in Iowa, Sackett serves on the Okoboji Foundation Board, the Lakes Regional Healthcare Foundation Board and the Dickinson County Trails Board, and is looking to get involved with Spencer-based boards as well.

Sackett is not shy about what drew him back to the area.

"It starts with the people," he said. "I've lived in a lot of places. I could pay to send my kids to the best schools in Los Angeles, but I knew people who went to the best schools in Los Angeles. They weren't bad people, but they weren't kind, they weren't intuitive, they didn't have the common sense of the people I knew from here."

"In some respects, it's something money can't buy."

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