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Portion of highway dedicated to Varners

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- A father and son who each provided leadership to Newton County were honored with a lasting memorial at Tuesday night's Board of Commissioners meeting.

State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, and state Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, were on hand to present resolutions passed by the Senate recognizing the contributions of the late Chairman Roy Varner and his son, former Chairman Aaron Varner, and dedicating a portion of Ga. Highway 36 as the Roy & Aaron Varner Highway.

Douglas, who did not seek re-election to the District 17 Senate seat and whose term ends in December, said the presentation would likely be his last official function before the Board of Commissioners, "so I can't think of a better way than what we are here to do tonight."

Douglas described Roy Varner, who died in June at the age of 86, as a man who helped modernize Newton County over a short period of time. Douglas read a portion of the resolution honoring Roy Varner, noting, however, that "there's no way we could really put into words the meaning that he had in this county."

The resolution commended Roy Varner's 16 years of service to Newton County, recognizing the construction of Cornish Creek Reservoir, construction of the Bypass Road, and purchase of modern equipment for the roads department in order to improve road maintenance among his most notable achievements. In addition, Varner was praised for providing fire trucks and firefighters for each district in the county, constructing a new animal control facility, building a new jail and establishing a retirement system for all county employees.

Holt also had words of praise for Roy Varner, recalling how, shortly after Holt was elected, Varner had taken time to ensure that the county he loved was in good hands.

Holt said the two met to talk at the Newton County Library where Varner gave him a short course in Newton County governance.

"Water is the key, and he helped me understand that really well," Holt said, adding, "He just wanted to be sure he was passing the baton to the next generation of legislators to take care of Newton County."

Holt said Aaron Varner exhibited the same stewardship for Newton County as his father. Holt read a portion of the resolution recognizing Aaron Varner's contributions to the county, noting that during his term of office Aaron Varner's administration adopted a comprehensive plan for future growth, establishing development regulations and strengthening zoning ordinances. In addition, under Aaron Varner's leadership, the county "adopted impact fees; reduced the gross millage rate for maintenance and operations; constructed an administration building with special local option sales tax funds which was finished on time and under budget; promoted the establishment of Georgia Perimeter College in Newton County; realigned, resurfaced, and made intersection improvements on over 184 roads; approved and budgeted 72 deputy sheriffs and staff, 85 new correctional officers, and 59 full-time firefighters; and built five fully staffed fire stations."

Aaron Varner and family members then unveiled one of the signs that will be placed along a portion of Ga. Highway 36. Varner thanked elected officials for the recognition for himself and his father. He added that his father had not intended to make Newton County his home, but he met "the love of his life" in Newton County and made his home in the county he came to love dearly.