Varrin & Edi Swearingen
We Made the Move! Varrin & Edi Swearingen
Date of move: October 25, 2004
Reported by Tim Condon, FSP Participant Services Director
Two of the Free State's newest Porcupine residents have a secret: "We originally opted out of most of the states, including New Hampshire, because we could not commit to moving to them without taking a tour and giving it more serious consideration," recounts Varrin Swearingen, who lived in Fresno, California with his wife and two children up until recently. "After the vote, we took a week and a half trip to New Hampshire," he said. "In late November 2003, we decided to move to Keene, NH. The move was to take place in October 2004, and was accomplished right on time."
Meet Varrin and Edi Swearingen, refugees from the Peoples Republic of California, who "made the move" with their two children, Edison (age 4) and Erin (age 3), in late October 2004 to the Free State of New Hampshire. Although they had originally "opted out" of New Hampshire, that quickly changed. "Once we toured the state, we began working on the move as soon as practical," says Varrin. "It took roughly a year from the time we decided to move to the time we arrived, partly because we decided to build a house in New Hampshire, as well as because of work and other schedules."
It wasn't a hard decision for Varrin and Edi to move early, even though as FSP members they're not obligated to move to the Free State until after the organization reaches 20,000 participants. "We decided to move now because we were ready to get out of California and begin working in a less futile environment to promote liberty," explains Varrin.
Prior to the great state vote, he says, "We researched New Hampshire and the other candidate states extensively. After the vote, we took a week and a half trip to New Hampshire and that sealed the deal." During that time, in November 2003, they "drove all around the southern one-third to one-half of the state."
What was their first impression of New Hampshire? Says Varrin, "Favorable. The attitude is noticeably more liberty friendly, though there is certainly a need for the FSP. No state is libertarian, but New Hampshire is better than most. The scenery was beautiful, the roads were well-maintained, shopping was suitable, and there are a variety of sizes and styles to the towns. We were able to find something that fit our personality well."
What was the weather like when they visited on their exploratory trip in November? "The weather was variable but not very warm," says Varrin. "It was only noticeably cold-near or below freezing and/or windy-only a couple of the days. There were rainy days, clear days, calm days, windy days, and everything in between. The variety was nice, and the cool clear days were stunning." As for the winters, Varrin notes that central California where they moved from is "hot and dry. It rarely freezes there, and even more rarely snows. However, we lived in northen Kentucky near Cincinnati for several years, so we have at least lived in the snow before."
"I believe the weather in Keene will be colder and snowier, but overall nicer than the Cincinnati area," he continued. As for the supposedly fearsome winters in the Free State, Varrin says, "My stock response to the concerns about the cold is that they do have heaters in New Hampshire. We had our builder install heaters in our house, and our car, which we bought in California, already had one installed in it. Imagine that! So far the weather inside has been a comfortable 71-74 degrees."
Varrin is an airline pilot who will continue working for the same company, while Edi has a Mary Kay cosmetics business that she's already working on expanding in New Hampshire. While visiting and exploring, they met lots of other liberty-lovers, including Kelton Baker (then the President of the FSP), Amanda Phillips (now President of the FSP), and Alan Weiss (former VP of the FSP), not to mention other Porcupines from Derry, Keene, and Hudson.
Why did they settle on Keene as a place to build their home (a custom two-story colonial; "of course we love it, since we designed it")? After all, with his airline job, Varrin must fly in and out of Manchester. "While it's a longer drive from the Manchester airport than I desired," Varrin explained, "Keene has everything else we wanted in a place to live. Cost of house was a major factor, as was shopping, suburbia, eating out, and other creature comforts. In the end, we decided we would rather have lower cost, higher quality house, and meet all of our other needs, than be closer to Manchester."
Any new friends in the Free State? As always, the answer is resounding. "Yes! Many. They are scattered about, but several of them are in Keene," Varrin says. In addition, he met tons of Porcupines in the summer before their move. "At the Porc Fest I met a lot of them. It's probably impossible for me to name them all right now. We love 'em all!" He and Edi were also delighted to find that the freedom-lovers they met in New Hampshire are "surprisingly normal, for libertarians" (Varrin says with a wink). "The most noticeable favorable trait is the desire to actually do something positive rather than sit around and argue about what to do or how to do it."
The couple also found willing hands to help them move in once they got to Keene. "Big, big, big thanks to Kat and Kira Dillon, Dawn Lincoln, and David Murray, for the help moving in," says Varrin. In addition, "Double thanks to David for taking about 800 pictures of our house as it was being built, so we could watch it go up from afar." Varrin and Edi also hired their realtor's nephew to do most of the work of unloading the truck. They did excellent work for a reasonable price. Varrin recalls, "This is our third move into a new house in eight years, and the first time the load in was completed without dinging the walls or staining the carpet."
There were also some happy surprises for Varrin and Edi as they settled into their new house in Keene. "It was refreshing to hear this question," says Varrin. "'So who are you going to have pick up your garbage?' Having dealt with city garbage in Florida, Kentucky and California, it was music to my ears to hear that there's no monopoly trash pickup in New Hampshire."
"Also," he continued, "I've noticed many businesses here operate 'smaller', so they're more family and customer oriented. For instance, on our first full day here, Edi had to have a tooth extracted. The kids were sleeping in our hotel room, so I couldn't pick her up. So one of the people in the dentist's office gave her a ride back to the hotel. That would never have happened in California."
How will Varrin and Edi work to reduce the size of government in the Free State, as all Porcupines intend? "We'll be working on delivering the liberty message to the Christian community in New Hampshire," he says. "I'm also looking forward to the town social and recreational events. Even though Keene is roughly one-twentieth the size of the Fresno area, the atmosphere here is cozy yet lively." He's also looking forward to trying to hook up with a band in the Keene area (he plays mostly jazz drums), and figures he and Edi will be hiking and mountain climbing in the summers, while skiing in the winters. ("I've skied twice and enjoyed it quite a lot the second time," he said.)
Overall, the portents are good, Varrin and Edi feel. "We embrace change for the better," says Varrin with a laugh. "We radically embrace radical change for the better! Freedom is like good health. You don't appreciate it until it's gone. For the health of your family, it's worth it to live and promote freedom in a place where you can make a difference. As a result of the Free State Project choosing New Hampshire, this is now the finest place in the world to do that."
"Come and take a tour," he counsels. "Meet the people. Look for houses and jobs. Explore the towns and enjoy a family vacation. Then when you go home, start packing!"
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