Published: October 03, 2016   Published by: Palm Beach County Housing Authority

The following speech was delivered by Renelda Mack, Esq. at a confirmation reception held for newly appointed Deputy Executive Director E. Lesleigh Varner, Esq. on Friday, September 23, 2016.

Determined and relentlessly curious- these are words that I use to describe Estelle Lesleigh Varner. Estelle is named, in part, after our grandmother, Estella Eugenia Varner. Our grandmother and grandfather, Voley William Varner, Sr., lived here in Palm Beach County in the early 1900s.

Our grandfather was a small business owner. He logged and sold wood to restaurants, hotels and other businesses. At that time wood burning stoves and heaters were common.

Our grandmother was a laundress. Unfortunately, Estelle and I never had the privilege of meeting her. However,her memory was kept very much alive by stories we heard from her children.

On September 29, 1939 Voley William Varner, Sr. died unexpectedly of an illness. He left behind his wife and their six children, one of whom was Estelle’s father, Voley William Varner, Jr.

That dramatic change in circumstances led our grandmother and her children to Dunbar Village. They were among the first families to move there.

Built in 1939, Dunbar Village was the first public housing community in West Palm Beach.

Recently, I looked at a lease that our grandmother signed years later in 1954. Her rent for Apartment 4,Building 1823 was $17.00 per month!

I am sharing this story because decades ago, the local housing authority provided a safe, clean,residence for the Varner family in their time of need.

Indeed, the Housing Authority fostered a true community where neighborly bonds were strong, where residents took great pride in their homes, and where lawns were well manicured.

It was a place where Estelle’s grandmother, father, and other family members thrived and became productive and successful citizens.

Estelle is well suited to serve as Deputy Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Housing Authority because she has a deep understanding of the importance of affordable housing.

Not only does she have the business and legal acumen to perform the tasks at hand, but she also has compassion for those in need.

Estelle’s determination is evident in the fact that life’s responsibilities did not prevent her from earning a master’s degree in public administration and later a law degree all whileworking and being a single parent.

Perhaps her creative side came from her mother, Francis McQueen Varner Blye, and her father who were writers for a newspaper business.

Her curiosity will lead her to assist stakeholders in finding innovative ways to preserve existing housing units and expand the supply of affordable housing in Palm Beach County. She will be mindful of maintaining the dignity of public housing residents.

And so I present to you,Estelle, a copy of this Public Housing Lease that was signed more than 60 years ago by our grandmother. May it forever serve as a reminder of the essential role that safe, decent and affordable housing plays in the quality of life.

Congratulations. May you have boundless success. On behalf of the Varner family, I wish you well.

Renelda E. Mack, Esq.

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