Crofton town manager to leave post Sunday

Swann, who has cancer, stopped working unofficially in Sept.

December 29, 2006|By SUSAN GVOZDAS | SUSAN GVOZDAS,Special to The Sun

After working for Crofton for 36 years, Town Manager Barbara Swann is officially stepping down Sunday.

Unofficially, Swann left her job of the last 13 years in September, when she became too sick to work. Swann, 71, has been getting radiation and chemotherapy on and off for two years for brain and lung cancer.

Until this year, she attended every community Easter egg hunt since 1985. She organized the Fourth of July parades, Christmas tree lightings and town cleanups.

"She really is Ms. Crofton," said David Lombardo, a former board member and president of the Crofton Civic Association from 1984 to 1988. "She's the go-to person when you need to know something about Crofton."

As town manager, Swann also oversaw Crofton's budget and enforced the covenant laws, which govern everything from where residents can hang clotheslines to the types of fences they can have on their properties.

"She worked very hard to make sure quality-of-life issue were taken care of," said Police Chief Larry Schweinsburg, who has been acting town manager since Swann left. "She worked many hours for free."

Schweinsburg, 59, also officially retires today from more than 30 years of policing to succeed Swann.

He said the transition has gone smoothly because he used to organize budgets and do administrative work for the Prince George's County police force.

Because the majority of the Crofton budget supports the police department, Schweinsburg worked closely with Swann for seven years.

She gave him latitude to make decisions and supported him, Schweinsburg said. Swann also worked well with her other employees, he said.

"She never lost her temper, although I'm sure there were times she probably wanted to," Schweinsburg said.

Set amid country roads and farms, Crofton was founded in 1964. Five years later, it became a special benefits district formed to collect taxes from homeowners to maintain local roads and operate a police force. Swann and her family moved to the area from Silver Spring that year.

"At the time, my children thought we were nuts because there was nothing to do," Swann said. Swann started working for Crofton in 1970 as a part-time secretary. She became full-time two years later and succeeded her father as comptroller when he died in 1978. The civic association appointed Swann town manager in 1993.

Crofton's budget grew from a $40,000 annual budget in the early 1970s to more than $1.1 million today. The area was supposed to be modeled after Williamsburg, Va., but she noticed early on that growth was overpowering that vision.

Swann said that is why she got involved with town operations, although she was not always successful in preserving that quaint Colonial feel.

"Everybody fights growth," she said. "You just finally realize what's going to happen is going to happen."

Swann earned her reputation as a peacemaker during a tumultuous time on the board of the Crofton Civic Association during the late 1990s, said Steve Grimaud, president of the association. Board members disagreed about the way the association was being run, but Swann stayed neutral. "She was absolutely fair about it," Grimaud said. "Loyalty and fidelity would be the things that I would associate with her time in Crofton.

Swann said she felt she had to be the diplomat to keep Crofton running efficiently.

"You've got to be a peacemaker," she said. "You don't want feuds going on here."

Swann's leadership skills became known throughout the county, said Judy Wilson, executive director of the Greater Crofton Chamber of Commerce. Swann also won respect by navigating rough patches - such as budget crunches and fee increases - with finesse, Wilson said.

"She has a very quiet manner about her that's somewhat misleading," Wilson said. "She can be an assertive person when she needs to be."

Sue Bents, administrative assistant for Crofton, said she and Swann became close during the 17 years they worked together. Swann would ask Bents to do things, but then step back and let Bents take charge of it herself.

"You wanted to do a good job for her because of her trust in you," Bents said.

Now Swann is at home, being cared for by her four children and three grandchildren.

She is wistful about what she sees as a gradual erosion of the community feel of Crofton. The growth of double-income households does not allow for as many community get-togethers, she said. Still, she brags that Crofton has a strong athletic program for children and several ballfields and recreation areas. She is glad she had the opportunity to help shape Crofton.

"I'm proud to be a part of this town," she said.

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