Get to Know: Jon Varnell, associate vice chancellor for facilities management

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jon Varnell, a former Valparaiso administrator, began his new duties in early December 2018.

What made you want to work in Facilities Management (FM) at UNC Charlotte?
The opportunity to come to Charlotte, be part of this community and contribute to a place that has been on the move for some time is very exciting. It’s a culmination of a lot of work and a lot of years, and I am happy to be here at UNC Charlotte and be part of this team.

What are your initial impressions of FM and the University? How have your first weeks been?

This department and the University as a whole have made me feel so welcomed. I can’t remember a time when I felt so welcomed in my first few weeks of a new job. That alone has made a huge impression on me. I have already learned a lot about FM and look forward to learning more.

What are your primary goals for FM?
My goal initially is to get to know our team and understand what we’re doing well so I can support delivering excellence daily. At the same time, as we engage in conversation throughout the entire group, there are emerging goals and themes that will develop. This is already happening in the first weeks on the job, and I look forward to expanding and continuing the dialogue. With so many talented and committed people, my primary goal will always be to support them as they support our community.  

What are some things you are most excited about in this new role?
I love seeing people have the opportunity to grow and develop to achieve personal goals that support the overall mission. I’m excited about training and development because it’s the real backbone to everything else we do. We have a lot of exciting things going on in all of the FM areas, and I am already enjoying being able to dive into our tactical work as well.  

What was your involvement with the recent snow storm in Charlotte? What did it teach you about your team?

The recent storm occurred as I was coming onboard, but I was impressed with the communication and planning of various units in the Division. I also recognized an impressive response from the facilities teams. I tried to stay helpful without being in the way, so I picked up a shovel and helped clear campus. I met quite a few people while sloshing around, which shows that even cold, miserable conditions can produce good things!

Do you have a favorite spot on campus yet?
Belk Gym has become my favorite spot lately. Keith Wassum (associate vice chancellor for business services) and Lee Snodgrass (director of facilities operations) introduced me to noon basketball, where a few employees gather and take a short break from the day. It’s a great stress relief opportunity.

You are new to living in the Charlotte area. How do you like the city so far?
Previously living in Greensboro, I am familiar with the Charlotte area. I would describe Charlotte as a big, little city. My family and friends often came to Charlotte to attend Panthers games and shop at Concord Mills. Living closer to those has been convenient. I also enjoy being split between the mountains and the beach. It’s an easy day trip to either, which is a nice variety.

What is a fact about you that surprises most people?

It always surprises people that I have seven kids. My oldest is 20, and my youngest is five. I love our family dynamic. Most days, it’s actually a good stress reliever coming home to a full house.

What are your hobbies outside of work? 

Playing the guitar. Singing. Well, I learned to play guitar because I sang, so I like to say I’m a singer that plays guitar. I just love music. I also still enjoy playing sports and exploring the outdoors with my family.