In As You Like It, William Shakespeare observed:
Freeport LNG’s Senior HR Business Partner Sharon McDonald Barnes could certainly relate.
Sharon was born in Silsbee, Texas, just northeast of Beaumont. Her family was well known in the community. Grandfather McDonald was a professional gambler and he won a Silsbee grocery store in a game. Sharon's father inherited the store, and it became a family business with everyone working there. One aunt (Naomi) started at McDonald's Groceries when she was 19. She retired from the store after 62 years.
Sharon's mother was the secretary at Waldo Mathews High School. When Sharon's sister was born, she retired and became a stay-at-home mom. Mrs. McDonald loved to bake, and Sharon found her passion for science watching her work. "I was five years old when my Mom said, 'We’re going to make a cake and it’s chemistry,'" remembers Sharon. "You have different ingredients, you make a homogeneous solution, add some exothermic heat and at the end of the process you have a different product!" After a school field trip to MD Anderson Cancer Center, Sharon became more motivated to work in science. She came home determined to work in a lab and find a cure for cancer.
But Sharon's life of "many parts" was just beginning. When she was only three, she had volunteered to sing a solo (He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands) at her sister’s high school talent show. Later, at Silsbee High, Sharon began acting in plays. She also competed in University Interscholastic League prose and poetry contests, going as an alternate to state one year. When she had to choose a college and career, science won over theater. She would enroll at Baylor in biochemistry.
Next was a 27-year stint at Dow. Sharon initially worked to set up Dow's drug testing program. Later, with others at Dow she invented and patented the device that became a precursor for the thermometers that are now used in the ear canals of babies.
At a new job in an environmental expertise center she trained operators on reactive chemicals. Finally, after tiring of lab work, Sharon followed a suggestion from one of her mentors to try HR.
While at Baylor, she met her husband who was on the football team. "He was real cocky and arrogant and I didn’t like him," she laughed. "We took a couple of classes together and he came over one day and we got to talking and I realized I kind of liked him."
Another interesting note to their relationship was his interest in genealogy. He had discovered that his great-great-grandfather had been a slave on Quintana Island. His great-grandfather stayed in the area to farm and ranch in nearby Jones Creek. At the time, neither Sharon nor her husband thought they would return to the island.
After graduation, she did toxicology in a substance abuse program at the VA. She then moved to Freeport to work at the Brazosport Regional Health Center. She also married her husband in Freeport.
He had signed with the New Orleans Saints after Baylor, but was injured. He had taken his degree in education which led him to find a job teaching and coaching at his old Freeport high school.
While at Dow, Sharon decided to return to theater. She auditioned and won a part in the musical Showboat with Brazosport Center Stages (located at The Center, where FLNG sponsors its 400-seat theatre). By this time she had two children. Both auditioned and were cast. "When my daughter Amber auditioned," Sharon recalled, "she was so shy and so nervous she had to turn her back to the director to sing her song. A couple of years ago, she was in a musical and got a standing ovation several nights." (This same daughter has also been the voice of FLNG's Christmas music video We Work Hard for Our Money.)
Next, Sharon had a major role in Potato Gumbo, an original play about ageing by a Lake Jackson resident. It was a runner-up for a Pulitzer two years ago.
If all these "hats" weren't enough, Sharon began to get involved in public service. "My father always said, 'To whom much is given, much is required,'" Sharon smiled. "He was one who always thought that we should be giving back, not always taking." She served as a city councilman in Lake Jackson and was Mayor Pro Tem for a while.
Sharon on the Lake Jackson City Council
Later she got a call from Governor George W. Bush’s office to serve on the Texas Medical Board for one of the district review committees. "My science part and the medical piece of that helps. And then the HR piece helps when the physician is right in front of myself and another panel and they present their case."
At a certain point, Sharon realized that advancement at Dow would mean a move to Midland, Michigan. With her roots in the Freeport area, she decided to look for a new HR position. When an opening at Freeport LNG came, she jumped at the opportunity. "I feel so connected to this company and I feel so very blessed to be there." Sharon said. "I keep asking myself why didn’t I come here sooner?"
Her job has also afforded more opportunities in entertainment. This past Christmas, Sharon sang Michael Baby in the company's holiday video. At The Center, she was recently cast in the role of Elizabeth Kleckly, the confidant of Mary Lincoln in the play The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. The play details the hard times that befell Mrs. Lincoln after the assassination, and the debt—mostly from personal outlays to renovate the crumbling White House—she finds herself in.
"I would say there’s quite a bit of synergy at FLNG," remarks Sharon, still filling her life with playing many parts, "because to be a good neighbor you have to give back when you’ve been so richly blessed. And I really applaud Michael Smith for all he gives back."