Barbara Swann

[ Age 72 ] Former town manager worked for Crofton for 36 years and was active in many community groups, committees

January 19, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Barbara L. Swann, who recently retired as Crofton's town manager after nearly four decades as an employee of the Anne Arundel County community, died from complications of brain and lung cancer Tuesday at her home there. She was 72.

Mrs. Swann had been town manager since 1993. She unofficially stepped down from her job in September, because of failing health, and retired at the end of the year.

"She was a real institution in the Crofton area. She and her husband had been active in community affairs and she was a faithful worker for the special benefits tax district," County Councilman Edward R. Reilly said yesterday. "She was always very compassionate, a good listener and a great problem-solver. Her big shoes will be hard to fill."

"She always exemplified the part of Crofton that I've always liked, the people who wanted to make it a better place, and she epitomized that," said Steve Grimaud, president of the Crofton Civic Association. "She was always interested in what she could do to make the Town Hall and budget more efficient."

Established in 1964, Crofton became a special benefits district in 1969, collecting taxes from residents to maintain local roads and fund a police force.

Mrs. Swann - who over the last 36 years had held each of the three positions at Town Hall - began her career after moving to the community with her family from Silver Spring in 1969. She first was administrative assistant, then comptroller and town manager.

"She's been the voice at the end of the line for hundreds of people who called Town Hall with questions or complaints over the years," said a 1990 article in the Crofton News-Crier. "She's been the eyes and ears of the board of directors, keeping minutes of the board's actions and a sharp watch on the town payroll."

"She was successful because of her total familiarity with Crofton. She knew everything because she lived here and her children went to school here, and she was able to get the movers and groovers in county government to help Crofton," said Faye Meyer, a former resident and longtime friend.

"She had exceptional communication skills and an ability to attract people, make friends and build relationships. Everyone loved her gentle manner. This was Barbara's life and this is why she is an icon in Crofton," Mrs. Meyer said.

Even though she was a Democrat, when it came to solving problems and working together, Mrs. Swann showed little interest in a person's political persuasion. "All she cared about was her relationship with you and how it benefited the community. She was a person who always handled controversy with wisdom and grace," Mrs. Meyer said.

"Barbara was very patient, kind, and never lost her temper. She was level-headed and always wanted to sit down and talk and hear both sides before making a decision," said Sue Bents, Crofton's administrative assistant.

Mrs. Swann also was a member of the Route 3 Task Force, Crofton's Small Area Plan Committee and the Crofton Athletic Association, which sponsors children's athletic events.

"She was diligent in enforcing the community's covenants in order to maintain the quality of life there. Her work with the Route 3 Task Force was so the community wouldn't be overrun by development and traffic," Ms. Bents said.

Larry Schweinsburg, the former Crofton police chief who succeeded Mrs. Swann as manager, said she "was dedicated to the community and did her job."

Mr. Schweinsburg said her legacy will be shaped by her work "in public safety, maintenance of common areas, and recreational programs for the community's youth."

Mrs. Swann had a reputation for working long hours.

"In 2002, when the special tax district faced a tax hike, Mrs. Swann voluntarily reduced her hours, slashing her own salary by more than $5,000 annually," The Capital newspaper noted in an article about her death.

Born in Washington, the former Barbara Lee Kohler was raised in Silver Spring, where she graduated from Northwestern High School. She attended the University of Maryland, College Park, for two years, before leaving to marry Richard Ptomey. The marriage ended in divorce.

In 1978, she married Thomas J. Swann, who worked for the National Security Agency and was a former Crofton town manager. Her husband - who founded the Magic Mushroom Crofton youth group and for whom a park in the community is named - died in 1989.

Mrs. Swann enjoyed gardening and flower arranging. She was a longtime Washington Redskins season ticket holder and was a member of the Ha-Ha Sisters card club.

A memorial service will be held at noon today at Community United Methodist Church, 1690 Riedel Road, Crofton.

Surviving are two sons, Brian Ptomey and John C. Ptomey, both of Crofton; two daughters, Debbie L. Stuby of Buffalo Mills, Pa., and Sandy K. Ptomey of Charleston, S.C.; a stepson, Thomas Swann Jr. of Laurinburg, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

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