Swan fulfilled by public service

By on January 30, 2009

by Martha Quetsch
Craig Swan has found his more than 14 years as an Elburn Village Trustee personally rewarding.

“The greatest thing in the world is when you get a phone call from a resident and then you take care of a problem for them,” Swan said. “Just knowing that you can make a difference is wonderful.”

Swan announced recently that he will not run for re-election to the Village Board.

“It’s time for some fresh eyes on the board, some new blood,” he said.

His public service began in the 1960s, when he volunteered for 10 years with Conley ambulance service and worked part-time for the Elburn Police Department. Later, serving three years on the Village Planning Commission piqued Swan’s interest in being on the Village Board, he said. So when former Village President Mike Stoffa asked Swan to fill remaining months of a vacated trustee position in the early 1990s, and then another, Swan did not hesitate to step forward. He since was elected to three consecutive terms.

“I realized you can’t pass an ordinance at the local coffee shop. You can talk about what needs to be done, but to change it you need to run for the board, sit at the table, and make decisions,” Swan said. “That’s how you can really make a difference.”

Jim Willey said Swan definitely has made a difference.

“Craig has been like the conscience of the board, seeing what is wrong and what is right,” Willey said.
Willey, village president throughout Swan’s tenure as a trustee, said the Village Board can always count on Swan to provide the perspective of average residents on issues.

One of those issues about seven years ago was a water main on West Nebraska Street that broke every few months. When the Public Works Department was fixing it, homes and businesses in the area were without water.

The village was awarded an Illinois First Grant of nearly $1.5 million to replace the water main, but had not received the money because of state budget delays.

“Craig thought that was wrong. The money had been awarded to Elburn, and we really needed it,” Willey said.

So Swan took up the task of making sure the village obtained the grant money. He regularly e-mailed and called lawmakers, including Sen. Chris Lauzen, lobbying for it.

“Craig never let it get off the radar,” Willey said. “We finally did get the money and it was really due to his persistence. A lot of us had given up on it.”

Willey said among his favorite memories of working with Swan on the Village Board are those of the two of them taking drives through Elburn to check up on things in the village.

“We drove around in all kinds of weather, looking for things that might need taking care of, like a broken street light, things like that. I enjoyed talking to him during those drives, about the community and what was going on, and what we could do to make it better. I will miss that,” Willey said.

One thing Swan is glad to have accomplished is helping work out a contract between the village and Feece Oil for gasoline for village vehicles. He had done business with Feece when his family owned a Ford dealership in town. Swan helped negotiate a much lower fuel price than the village paid to its former supplier, he said.

Among the many additions to the village while Swan has been a trustee are the new wastewater treatment plant, the South Street paving, the annual road and street improvement program, the Metra commuter station, and the Jewel store and other businesses. In addition, the village met the state’s unfunded mandate for radium removal from the village’s water. All of those accomplishments took a lot of work by the Village Board, Swan said.

Swan also is glad he could help rid the village of several old, empty fuel tanks located at the former Northern FS.

“They were rusty and nasty looking, and so many people wanted them to come down,” Swan said.
He and the other trustees worked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Northern FS to ensure that the tanks and residual fuel were removed.

“It took quite awhile. But determination ruled out on that one because now the tanks are not there,” Swan said.

Swan said the next Village Board is going to have some huge challenges, because of the downturn of the economy. He hopes future trustees maintain the practice he has supported of requiring developers to help pay for infrastructure improvements.

A 50-year Elburn resident, Swan works as a Kane County Circuit Court case scheduler. He currently has no plans to seek another elected office.