Longtime mayor reflects on years

By Kay Braddock 

        Mayor Marvin Varner presided over his final town council meeting last month, ending a 26-year career as Terry’s mayor. 

Varner began as Terry’s mayor in mid-1983, fulfilling the remainder of Eddie Huber’s second term as Huber took over the then full-time town clerk-treasurer position. Varner was first elected to the town council as a Ward II councilman in April, 1975. 
Since his appointment as mayor, Varner has fulfilled 6 four-year terms. 
Varner, a 1965 graduate of Terry High School, recalled the changes he has seen the town go through since then. There were three car dealerships, five full-service gas stations and three implement dealers when he graduated from high school, Varner shared. Since then, due to a steadily declining population and lack of industry to draw in young families, Varner shared the town has faced an uphill battle.
“A town this size doesn’t need a boom,” he said. “A gradual increase in population would be the greatest thing in the world.”
After graduating from high school, Varner attended two years at Eastern Montana College in Billings studying business and accounting. He moved back to Terry to work with his dad, Lester Varner, at the Varner and Dockstader Service Center in 1967. Lester Varner served as Terry’s mayor from April 1949 to Aug. 1970.
Marvin and his wife Carol made their home in Terry. The couple have three grown daughters. Their oldest daughter Jacie and husband Brett Schoenen live in Great Falls, while daughters Tonya and husband Jeff Appelt and Laini Varner live in Billings.
Varner’s concern for Terry’s future includes ensuring exemptions exit from federal and state mandates that prove too difficult for a town this size to maintain. In particular he points to future regulations affecting Terry’s sewer lagoon requirements as well as those that may affect the town’s swimming pool. 
A good rapport with county commissioners and school trustees has been a benefit to the town, Varner said. He pointed to the dual law enforcement agreement shared between the county and town and cost-splitting shared on Terry’s town-fire hall. Both entities have been able to use the building. 
He also pointed to the volunteer firemen and the work many of them have contributed to improving the fire hall.
“It’s a big improvement to the community,” Varner said of the building.
Varner named some of the people he has worked with over the years, including town maintenance workers, clerks and councilmen.
“I’ve had some great opportunities to work with the city council,” he said.

Published Jan. 6, 2010

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