Jamestown Tourism executive director chosen for Above and Beyond Award
The chamber announced its 2021 award winners at its annual awards banquet Thursday, Jan. 20, at Harold Newman Arena.
JAMESTOWN — The Jamestown Tourism executive director said receiving the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Above and Beyond Award is a great honor and about earning the trust of community members.
Searle Swedlund, who is from Velva, North Dakota, said he was sitting in a room full of volunteers nine years ago being interviewed about his experience and knowledge of tourism. He said the questions were good but the people interviewing him would look to clarifying points to figure out if they could trust him if he was invited into the community in his future role as Jamestown Tourism executive director.
“I’m just really grateful for this opportunity to work here, to be a person who does the kind of work that we get to do everyday,” he said. “I’m not from here, I have committed my life here like a lot of folks have. Somehow folks thought I was worth a shot and I hope I haven’t squandered it yet.”
The chamber announced its 2021 award winners at its annual awards banquet Thursday, Jan. 20, at Harold Newman Arena. The Citizen of the Year winner was University of Jamestown President Polly Peterson, Nick Bruns of Nodak Insurance Co. was named the Young Professional of the Year, and the Anne Carlsen Center was named the Business of the Year.
Swedlund is a relationship builder and well respected by his peers and subordinates, Mayor Dwaine Heinrich wrote in his letter of nomination. He wrote that Swedlund is respected around the state and that was reflected by his election to the North Dakota Council on the Arts.
“Searle is a master of managing different personalities and with that and other talents shifted the focus of tourism in Jamestown from marketing the community to one which focuses on building experiences,” he wrote.
Frontier Village is owned by the city of Jamestown and is currently managed by Jamestown Tourism. Heinrich wrote that Swedlund restored Frontier Village “to a place of respect in the Tourism World and in so doing gained the respect of others associated with the Village.”
“When the community faced the need for new leadership and management at the Frontier Village, it was Searle Swedlund who stepped up to fill that void,” Heinrich wrote. “He did so without drama but rather with stability and professionalism demonstrated by his steadfast calming influence when it was needed.”
One project that Swedlund was involved with was working with Talking Trail to develop audio stories via smartphone app that allow visitors to hear 2-minute audio stories by cellphone about specific locations or other community history at numerous sites in the Jamestown area and at Wimbledon. After the project was completed in 2016, he said it would not have been successful without the work of local historians such as Keith Norman, Mary Young, Charlie Kourajian, Bruce Berg and others who helped preserve the past.
Swedlund said one of his favorite projects was working with The Jamestown Sun in 2014 to build the Source Guide.
“We both had a publication and neither of them were that good, but together they tell a really great story, good photography and written in a fashion important to the visitors,” he said.
He also worked with many people in the community when the idea of JamestownCalendar.com was developed.
Swedlund serves in many different roles for the betterment of the Jamestown community, wrote Angela Martini, advertising and public relations manager at The Arts Center, in her letter of nomination.
“In every instance, sector, challenge, project … he is always there, shirt sleeves rolled up and ready to serve,” she wrote. “On occasion even fixing the random plumbing mishap, or helping select the next (Jamestown) Parks and Rec director, or spending his lunch breaks organizing fundraising drives to feed or clothe those in need, or donate blood, just to name a few recent encounters.”
Swedlund goes above and beyond what is expected or even generally accepted as sufficient for a community member, Martini wrote.
“He may not live in Jamestown by zip code, but he works endlessly to promote, help, assist, advise and further Jamestown’s growth and success,” she wrote.
Swedlund resides in Valley City, North Dakota.
Swedlund’s efforts often go unnoticed because he does things without recognition, Allison Limke, visitor experience manager at Jamestown Tourism, wrote in her letter of nomination.
“There is so much more going on,” Limke said in a phone interview. “There are so many little projects and things that he knows about but he helps other people find and get, whether it is a state grant that he tells an agency about so they can get it, or it is working with parks to get a project done, or even the (U.S. Army Corps) of Engineers at Pipestem or just even volunteer groups like the biking groups. Just getting these people together and making sure they know there are opportunities in town.”
Limke said the greeters who worked at Frontier Village in the summer spearheaded the whole process of nominating Swedlund for the award.
“They saw someone who didn't need to do so much for the space up here and did it anyway,” she said. “I think that it is important to say that it isn’t just the person sitting in the next room who sees it. It is the people who are out doing that other auxiliary work too.”
Alice and Albert Boeckel, who are greeters, both nominated Swedlund for the award. Alice wrote that she sees that Swedlund is very involved in working at Frontier Village, keeping it updated and working on projects that improve the village, city and tourism.
“He is very easy to work with and shows respect to all who work for him,” she said.