FALMOUTH — Director of Parks and Public Works Walter “Skip” Varney has resigned after two years in the position and a total of 18 years employment with the town.
Varney, 51, of Windham, began his Falmouth career as the director of community programs in 1991. In a press release, Town Manager Nathan Poore said when the parks and public works position came open, Varney “convinced” him that he was “the right person for the job.”
“I think Skip (Varney) was a change agent down there,” Poore said Tuesday. “He came in and engaged the staff and wanted to know what the long-term picture should look like with the equipment.”
Poore credited Varney with creating a “long-range infrastructure management plan using state-of-the-art software.” In addition, he said Varney tackled more roadwork than the town had seen for years and personally managed the recent Johnson Road reconstruction project.
Varney has left his mark on the town with the development of 15 new parks and open space areas that include Community Park and the management of more than 1,000 acres of town-owned property.
But he said a recent epiphany of sorts convinced him to leave the demanding job behind and concentrate on pursuing other interests.
After experiencing the deaths of a couple of his contemporaries within the last few years and, more recently, his 57-year-old neighbor, Varney on Monday said he decided to pay more attention to his passions – martial arts, home construction and piloting planes.
For nearly 30 years, Varney has taught martial arts at Varney’s School of Self Defense and at the University of Southern Maine; he plans to continue to teach at both locations.
He will also have the time to complete his current construction projects – a home he is building with and for his sons and a home in New Gloucester he is rebuilding from the foundation up.
And he can fulfill his dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
Although Varney served in the Air Force for 10 years, first as an aerospace controller and later in communications, he had to overcome years of severe motion sickness before he could finally pursue the private pilot’s license he received in 2005.
Now he puts in more than 100 hours flying time per year and is halfway through the instrument training required for a commercial pilot’s license.
While he is confident that the decision to leave Falmouth was the right one, Varney said he feels fortunate he’s had the opportunity to work with land acquisition and park development while saving the town money at the same time.
“People have been really good over there; I can’t think of anything negative,” he said.
Over the years, his key focus was always customer service, he said.
“When someone calls, you try to accommodate him the best way you can within the parameters,” he said. “The town definitely does that.”
Varney will continue to tie up loose ends with Poore and others in the town until his official resignation date of Feb. 13. At that time, Assistant Director Jay Reynolds will take over as acting director, Poore said.
“(Reynolds) not only knows the ropes, but is excellent at what he does,” he said.
Poore said he wants to get through budget season and closer to the end of the fiscal year before advertising for Varney’s permanent replacement.