Carolann Swartz is “Proud to Serve” Grant County

Posted on Oct 30, 2015

Carolann Swartz"We're exporting our greatest commodity: our kids," says Grant County Commissioner Carolann Swartz. Swartz, a Grant County Economic Development Council Director for over five years, says the county needed to diversify the economy. "Now we have good jobs" thanks to the manufacturing that has come to the county, she adds.  "Diversification evens out the economy." Swartz remembers when the Air Force left and the sugar plant shut down. "We struggled, but it made us stronger."

Swartz was an Air Force brat, moving to Grant County when she was in junior high. Before Moses Lake, the family had lived in the Philippines. She finished high school here and that's where she met her husband, Don Swartz. She attended the University of Washington for two years, and then married Don because he was about to go to graduate school on the East Coast. Eventually, Swartz earned her degree in Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University.

Now being a county commissioner keeps her busy. She is also still involved with the family business, J&M Electric. "I've been involved in a multitude of things," Swartz says. "I've volunteered a lot." Once her children had moved out, she decided running for county commissioner would be a good "stepping off point." In 2008 she ran for county commissioner. She points out that before she ran, all three commissioners were farmers. She thought having a businessperson on the commission was important. "I had as good ideas as someone else," she says. She wanted to make Moses Lake and Grant County better. But her term started in 2009, right as the recession hit, and the first priority became how to balance the county budget. "How are we going to make ends meet and do our budget?" she says of that period.

Swartz likes the variety of being a county commissioner. "It's not boring," she says with a smile. On Mondays and Tuesdays they could have 10 - 14 meetings in a day dealing with all aspects of the county government.  "I like solving problems," Swartz explains. She is also involved at the state level. She is on the Legislative Steering Committee which requires her to be in Olympia every other week while the legislature is in session. She was also appointed by Governor Inslee to the Washington Highway Safety Commission. She says one of the goals of the commission is to "drastically" cut distracted driving by 2020, which of course means cell phones. She's also been asked to serve on the Eastern Washington University policy committee.

Solving problems is one of the challenges Swartz faces as a county commissioner. "Communication is the key to everything. You need to sit back and hear all sides of it. There are always two sides, or more, and you'd better listen to all of them." She gets frustrated that nothing happens quickly but she is always trying to get the "most bang for the buck." She wants to make the county as efficient as possible so the taxpayer isn't "nickel and dimed to death." She'd like to see government as efficient as businesses.

As a county commissioner, Swartz became a Director of the EDC. "We need the diversification of our economy," she says. The EDC is bringing "good strong jobs" to the area, she explains, and taking advantage of the assets in the county. "It's vital," she says. And she credits the EDC with successes.  "Now we're being talked about all over the state."

"What I like about the EDC is the sharing and camaraderie," Swartz explains. "The sharing of ideas." She says it's a healthy group and "so informative." "Keeps you on the pulse of what's happening."

Swartz is still involved with J&M Electric and does payroll and accounts payable. She has to fit that in when she can, sometimes working evenings.

The biggest change Swartz has seen in Grant County in the time she's lived here is the influx of industry. The economy used to be almost purely agriculture and if they had a bad year, everyone had a bad year. "Who would have thought we'd be growing red algae or building Genie lifts," she says. She is also amazed by the "international flavor" of the industry in Grant County.

She would like to see more retail in the county "but it's coming, it's happening." She'd like to see more schools built, too. And "I'd like to see some of these open areas filled in."

Swartz likes living in Grant County. "I like the friendly people. We have a healthy culture. Fun people; laid back." And "you can't beat the scenery."

In her spare time Swartz like to "play in the dirt" working in her garden. She is always carrying a camera to take pictures. And, as a Fine Arts major, she likes to paint.

Swartz smiles: "I'm proud to serve" Grant County.