“The time has come,” he said earlier this week. “I’ll be 82 years old in another week, and I want more time to spend with my family, especially my grandchildren.”
Swenson, who has been involved in education in Tracy in one capacity or another since 1953, was first elected to the school board in 1994 and is halfway through his current four-year term.
He sent his letter of resignation earlier this week and will attend his last board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 11. His resignation will be effective two days later, Thursday, Dec. 13.
Superintendent James Franco has recommended through an email to board members that applications be accepted from the community with a deadline of Dec. 19. The board would then have a special meeting to interview candidates and select a new board member to serve out the final two years of Swenson’s term.
Franco has recommended the special board meeting be held Jan. 3, so the new trustee can take office at the Jan. 8 meeting.
The board is expected to take action on Franco’s recommendation Tuesday night.
Swenson, a former Tracy High basketball coach, counselor and vice principal, said he leaves the board feeling that the district is doing the best job possible meeting the community’s educational needs.
“Certainly, there are budget constraints that must be dealt with, but for the most part, schools in Tracy are on solid footing,” he said.
Swenson added that he can say without hesitation that the most important decision he made as a trustee was taking part in naming Franco district superintendent in 2002.
“Jim Franco has provided tremendous leadership for our district,” he said. “Jim has worked effectively on academic programs and on building top-notch facilities for the district.”
Among the visible signs of progress Swenson pointed to were the rebuilding of Tracy High School and the completion of the West High campus with local bond funding and state matching funds, and the construction of Kimball High with developer fees.
“And we are in the midst of upgrading older elementary schools with local bond and state funding,” he said. “I don’t know of any other town around here that provides better quality school facilities.”
On the academic side, making certain the right principals are selected to manage the educational programs has been one of his, and the board’s, priorities.
“As a board member, I’ve tried my best not to rush decisions,” he said. “I have wanted to hear all sides of an issue first.”
Swenson, a native of Stockton, came to Tracy in 1953 after graduating from the University of New Mexico, where he played on the basketball team. He earned a master’s degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts.
“My first job was as P.E. coach at Senior Elementary School,” he said. What was then Senior School is now the campus of Tracy Learning Center charter school.
After two years, he moved to Tracy High School in 1955, where was a driver’s education teacher while coaching the “B” basketball team. He became varsity basketball coach a year later.
Swenson coached basketball until 1966, including the 1964-65 team that has been called one of the best in the school’s history.
He then became a counselor and athletic director before being named vice principal in charge of discipline.
Swenson retired in June 1994, and at the urging of a number of friends, became a candidate for the Tracy Joint Union High School board that November. He won election to the board and was re-elected, several times without opposition, in the following years.
“When I went on the board, Keith Larick has just been named superintendent of both the high school and elementary districts, and he managed to smooth out what had been some contentious times and to move the two districts toward complete unification.
“Keith really knew school finance, and he made sure we received hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional state funding before the districts were unified in 1997,” said Swenson, who after unification served on the TUSD board.
The retiring school trustee has been a member of the Tracy Breakfast Lions Club, and he and his wife, Ann, have been active members of the First Presbyterian Church.
They plan traveling to Chile to attend the wedding of a grandson. Their daughter, Linda Swenson, is a librarian in an international school in Santiago.
A second daughter, Susie Trien, who is a stay-at-home mom, lives in North Denver; a son, Rob, the former Denver Broncos linebacker, lives in the Denver area; and younger son Bill, a local builder, lives in Tracy. Swenson has eight grandchildren.
n Contact Sam Matthews at 830-4234 or email@example.com.