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County attorney Varn to resign next month

Jan 29, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn is resigning effective Feb. 28 after serving in the position for nearly four years.

"After I retired from the Air Force, I promised my wife after she followed me all over for my job, I would thankfully and willingly follow her around," Varn said.

Varn, 52, is relocating to Denver to reunite with family members who have been in Colorado since his wife was promoted to account regional controller for M-I Swaco in June.

"I'm tired of the road between Denver and here," he said, laughing.

The Fremont County Commission appointed Varn to the Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney post in April 2009 after Ed Newell resigned. Varn then ran for the position unopposed in 2010, securing the seat for another four years. He was a deputy prosecutor in Riverton at the time of his appointment, and he had been a public defender for a year before that.

Varn moved to Fremont County after retiring from a 23-year career with the Air Force, eight of which he served as a judge advocate general. He said his future won't be spent in a courtroom.

"I will probably never do the law thing again," Varn said.

He said he hopes to go into ministry and maybe "sweep floors at a rescue mission."

"I want to try to get into more of a helpful thing," Varn said. "I have learned law and politics don't change someone's heart or mind. I want to go into something more useful."

Varn formally submitted his resignation to commissioners Tuesday.

"I thank this board for appointing me nearly four years ago to this wonderful position; and, likewise, I thank the people of Fremont County for supporting me during the election of 2010 allowing me to continue to work for them these last two years," Varn wrote. "I will remember the people of Wyoming, and especially of Fremont County, fondly in the years to come."

Commissioners accepted Varn's resignation.

"I want to thank you for your help, for making sure we're provided with good civil representation at our table and on our issues," chairman Doug Thompson said.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman told Varn she was the "stand-alone no vote" on his 2009 appointment.

"After I got to know you, I probably would have supported your appointment," she added.

Because Varn is a member of the Republican Party, his replacement will be from the GOP.

"The GOP has been out there recruiting," Varn said. "The GOP will interview any people actively seeking the spot. They then have to submit three names to the commission."

Commissioners will then appoint someone who will serve the remainder of Varn's term.

Fremont County deputy attorney Pat LeBrun on Tuesday announced his intent to seek the position.

Tough decision

Varn said it was harder than he anticipated to step down from the elected position because of the "obligations to citizens."

"We entertained that for a while," he said about staying longer. "It's just not practical. It isn't fair to the people of Fremont County, the attorneys, the clerks."

Varn said he delayed resigning so he could see through two projects he undertook, which included changes made to the juvenile justice system.

The juvenile center at the Fremont County Detention Center has since closed. The new day reporting center, which provides educational services for juvenile offenders, has since enrolled its first student with two more on their way.

"The concept started last April with superintendents, and in less than a year we have a MOU in place," Varn said. "We got a lot of groups on board who were fired up to make it happen. ... I am stunned and humbled."

He said the test will come in four or five years when officials look at the recidivism rate.

The second project Varn wanted to see completed was a paperless environment for his offices in Riverton and Lander. He said he thinks the change will save time, especially for clerks who spend 30 to 40 percent of their day retrieving paper files. The freed up time could be used to build skill sets and pursue paralegal training, he said.

Cases

Among the many cases Varn's office was involved in during his nearly four years on the job were the Bunker Road controversy and the county's voting rights litigation. He also assisted Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese's office in the early stages of drafting the legislative redistricting boundaries.

"It was quite an honor. ... That was a spectacular team," Varn said.

He spoke of how proud he was with the investigative process that led to five arrests in the November 2011 double homicide in Hudson.

"The level of cooperation from all jurisdictions was just astounding," Varn said, naming off a slew of agencies that were involved at the local, county, state and federal levels.

"They were all in a helpful position to help solve a murder," he continued. "And it all worked just like everybody thought it would. This was a perfect investigation."

He said he is pleased with what his office has done during his tenure.

"We have had people who have come in and hit the ground running," Varn said. "We've put some bad guys in jail."

The Fremont County Attorney's Office has seen a spike in the number of cases it has handled in the last several years. Varn said the office handled around 120 felony cases in 2006, and that figure ballooned to 301 in 2009. The attorneys average 2,000 to 2,300 misdemeanor cases.

"It seems like we run from emergency to emergency," he said.

Varn expressed gratitude to the community for accepting "an outsider."

"I hope they find I've done an adequate job," he said.

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