New Vista worker ready to take on Kenai project

Posted: Monday, November 22, 2004

Kenai's new Vista Grant employee, Andy Varner, is quickly getting an inside view of the city's inner workings.

"He's hit the ground running," Kenai City Manager Linda Snow said last week.

Varner began his one-year Vista hitch with the city Nov. 12. He's the second person to fill the role, following Casey Reynolds, who resigned from the position earlier this year to take a job with the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development Division.

In the week that he's been in the city, Snow said Varner has been to a city council meeting, gotten an apartment and a car and visited the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. He's also met with Reynolds to discuss the city's ongoing Kenai Economic Development Strategy program, which will be one of Varner's primary responsibilities while with the city.

"I've been taking him around to the city's offices, getting him acquainted," Snow said.

Varner said he's had a lot to learn in the short time he's been here.

"At first it was a bit overwhelming, but I'm getting more comfortable," he said.

Being able to adapt to new situations is apparently one of Varner's biggest strengths. Before he came to the city, the 2001 University of Missouri graduate taught English in Korea and Slovakia. Coming to Kenai, he said, is just par for the course.

"I really wanted to go to either Alaska or the West Coast," he said. "... It's sort of a world tour, I guess."

Now that he's here, Varner said he's excited to see all that Alaska has to offer though he admits he's looking forward to some warmer weather.

"It will be fun to see what it's like in the summer," he said.

Varner said he's interested in finding out what Alaska's wilderness has to offer, as well.

"I love to hike," he said. "I haven't done much fishing, but now I suppose there won't be any reason not to."

Varner will work primarily with the KEDS group, a three-year project that's about to enter its second phase.

Snow said the nice thing about Reynolds leaving the city is that he's still "in" the city, working at the EDD building just a couple miles from city hall.

"(EDD Director) John Parker has made it clear that part of (Reynolds') job is helping us," Snow said.

She said that because the city's economic development falls within Reynolds' job description at the EDD, he'll be available to help Varner transition into the job of leading the KEDS group.

"The insight (Varner) can get from Casey is better than the insight he can get from me, because Casey's been there the whole way," Snow said.

Snow said she's happy that Varner is on board with the city, and she is looking forward to having him help out as Kenai continues making long-range economic plans.

"He's a great guy," she said. "We're excited to have him."

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