Curtis Varnell of Paris announced last week he will become a candidate for state representative for District 74, the area representing essentially Logan County and Altus.
Varnell will run as an independent.
“I feel we have reached too much of an impasse in our government. Although a conservative, we must have the ability to reach across the aisle and work with those with different opinions, ” he said. “We need to stop worrying about national politics and national policies and focus at this level on what is best for the residents of the region. There are some serious problems in our region and it requires cooperative work on our part to solve these. We are not better off than we were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or when I was in school.
“The two largest schools in our district are both 100 percent free lunch, the population in our towns are decreasing, and our young are leaving for better opportunities. Lack of job training and employment skills leads to even greater problems of drug abuse and persistent unemployment. We need someone to fight for our kids and their future. Everyone who knows me knows the importance I place on every kid I work with. We have great educators, community leaders, and churches and we need to work together to solve these problems. I am a part of this area and these communities. You see me shopping here, you see me in the local cafes, you see me at your churches. I am available and will listen your suggestions. My campaign group will have a web site up within days and we will listen to you.”
Varnell is a life-long resident of the county and has more than 40 years of experience in teaching students from pre-school through college. He is the father of three children, two of whom are teachers and Zachary of the home.
A former Gideon speaker, he is a member of the Caulksville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in education, a Masters in history and political science from Arkansas Tech University and a doctorate in geology from the University of Arkansas.
Varnell was employed for 26 years by Paris Schools as a teacher and bus driver. During that time, he spent summers employed by Cloyes Gear, Tyson, Arkansas Nuclear One, and other area companies.
Experience he feels is valuable in representing the people of the region. He also served as summer coordinator for the summer youth employment program for nine years during which he administered the work development program for students age 14-22.
Varnell was the 1996 Logan County educator of the year, 1997 Fulbright Award winner, 1998 Woodrow Wilson Scholar, and was named to Who’s Who in American Education for 13 consecutive years. He is the only known winner of both the Arkansas Social Studies teacher of the year (2010) and Arkansas Science Teacher of the Year (2016).
An author of eight books, he has spoken at several state, national, and international conferences and his book, Roads less Travelled, is on the state adoption list for Arkansas history and used by school districts including Little Rock and Arkadelphia.
He is currently employed as science specialist for the Guy Fenter Education Service cooperative at Branch. His primary duties are to promote effective science education in the more than fifty schools located within the cooperative region.
“Our future lies in developing the skills and work ethic needed to compete in this region. It is important to continue preparing our college bound kids while at the same time preparing the 80 percent of our non-college degree populous with job opportunities,” Varnell said in announcing his candidacy. “The new vocational center at Paris should be a model for our region. Students from surrounding schools, as well as young adults, can receive training and a certificate in welding and robotics. I would like to assist in expanding that program to South Logan with a center at Booneville where students might pick up job training for such needed skills as cross country truck driving, LPN, robotics, and hospitality training. Students across the county should be able to attend any one of these technical centers and be prepared for a career where local jobs are readily available.
“Our kids need to be involved in the governmental process. Frank Willems used to have student groups from every school in the county visit the capitol, experience politics through the Close-Up program, and to serve as pages. That needs reinstated. The policies instituted there are for their present as well as their future and they need to understand the process.”
Varnell insists he is not running against anyone.
“I am not running against Jon Eubanks,” he said. “I am merely putting in my application for the same job. People in this district will look at the credentials and decide who will best represent their interest.”