Remembering an Irreplaceable Director and Friend
By Mark Kappler
As I reflect on Wayne Swiler’s passing, many thoughts run through my mind.
I am reminded that HomeWorks can never "replace" Wayne. His 39 years of service on the board of directors taught him innumerable lessons. He had a thorough understanding of the electric utility business, the co-op business model, and a sense of service to the members of District 2 and all members of the cooperative. These traits and characteristics are not easily found.
Most importantly, Wayne was always a staunch advocate for the members. When he felt the cooperative was not performing well for the members, Wayne would say, “I have a complaint I want to discuss with you.”
Wayne and I traveled to Cadillac each month to attend the Wolverine board meeting, and the 2.5-hour drive each way allowed for great discussions. From business to family, to things we both enjoyed doing, our discussions were always interesting and made the drive feel shorter. Of course, we always managed to find an ice cream shop to visit on the way home.
I am not the only one who feels this profound loss. Former General Manager Scott Braeger reflects, "Wayne was a man of few words, but with a deep understanding of people and values. He provided great leadership to people around him, not with words, but by the example he set! You didn't have to be around Wayne very long to realize that he cared deeply about people; he wanted the best for them. As a director, a member's concerns always came before all else. Wayne was an example to all of us how to live this one life we each have been given. So long, friend...you will not be forgotten."
Retired board member Cara Evans also remembers her friend. “Wayne always spoke his mind. I could call Wayne and ask him questions, or discuss an issue with him. He was honest with me; he told me years later that in the beginning, the all-male board didn't really like a woman there. I think we became friends because of his honesty. We could just bounce our thoughts around. It was like thinking out loud to each other. He was a very good friend. He loved serving on the board. And he will be greatly missed.”
As we look to the future at HomeWorks, the best we can do is fill his vacant seat with someone who will add value to the board, as well as someone who will bring new skills and perspectives relevant to our changing membership and business model. No one will ever replace Wayne Swiler. Thank you, Wayne, for setting that standard high.
Long-Time Director Dies
Wayne Swiler, who served HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members for over 39 years on the cooperative’s board of directors, died at his home near Lake Odessa on December 19, 2016, after a long illness. He was 71.
A native of Portland who moved to Lake Odessa at a young age, he graduated from Lakewood Public Schools in 1964 and served in the National Guard from 1965-1972, while employed at Oldsmobile. After dairy farming for several years, he left the business and worked at Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch for 20 years before retiring.
Mr. Swiler is survived by his wife, Pam; son, Kevin; daughter Amanda; three granddaughters and one great-grandson. He was a member of the First Congregational Church of Lake Odessa, the Lakewood Area Lions Club, First Families of Ionia County Society, and the Ionia County Genealogical Society, and enjoyed fishing in his spare time. He was also a great fan of the Grand Rapids Drive basketball team.
“Wayne was especially known for his compassion and generosity,” his family wrote of him. “He never met a stranger and was loved by all who knew him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a warm, loving smile. He was the go-to fix-it man for anyone who needed something repaired.”
Mr. Swiler’s paternal and maternal grandparents were some of the very first members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative; he became a member in 1967 and was first elected to the board of directors in 1977. He was vice-chairman of the board and also represented the cooperative on the Wolverine Power Cooperative board of directors.