Jamestown losing a 'huge asset' to community when Swedlund leaves

·5 min read

Sep. 3—JAMESTOWN — City of Jamestown officials were hoping the day wouldn't come when the executive director of Jamestown Tourism would leave the position.

Searle Swedlund submitted his resignation in August, and his last day will be Sept. 9. A native of Velva, North Dakota, Swedlund has held the executive director position since 2013.

"The thing that I hoped would not happen while I was mayor was ... the community would have to deal with finding a replacement for Searle," Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said. "You don't find people like Searle very often."

Swedlund has been a "huge asset" to the Jamestown community and will be long remembered for his contributions, said Connie Ova, CEO of Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp.

"He has basically put the place on the map for destination tourism for Jamestown, North Dakota, and hopefully it only gets better and we continue to grow from there," she said.

City Councilman Brian Kamlitz said Swedlund's vision and always looking toward the future will be missed by the community. He said it takes creativity to develop the foundation of what Jamestown Tourism is.

"Somebody that is stagnant is not going to be as productive as the community and the surrounding community would like," he said. "(When) you have somebody who is a go-getter, gets after it, and gets people to be involved, that's when you have a good response and get good participation."

Swedlund is leaving for a position in economic development for the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission. He and his family will be moving to Morris, Minnesota.

He said he will miss the people in the community. He said the area has some really "great, solution-minded" young leaders who are ready to make their mark on this community.

"I'm sad I won't be around to be a part of that movement, but I'm excited to return one day and see how they have made their mark on Jamestown," he said.


received the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Above and Beyond Award

, which recognizes an individual for business and community leadership. The award recognizes individuals who nurture solid working relationships that exceed normal business activities and contribute to the betterment of the community.

He previously said his favorite accomplishment was helping the National Buffalo Museum double its paid admission in less than two years, which is the type of work Jamestown Tourism should be doing. He said he suggested creating a video about the story of bison to the National Buffalo Museum Board of Directors.

Heinrich said Swedlund is an excellent leader, communicator and collaborator who is willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

"If you are having issues and can address it in a calm, cool manner, that helps calm other people down and for them to have confidence in you and your ability to lead," he said of Swedlund's demeanor in his work.

Even though Swedlund is leaving, he's concerned about a transition plan after he leaves, Heinrich said.

"He's been working up to the last minute with the people involved to try to figure out the best transition from him to whatever comes next," he said. "That is to me very important and speaks very highly of him."

The Jamestown Tourism Board of Directors approved a partnership between Jamestown Tourism and the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce earlier this week. The board also approved ending the search process for an executive director.

Using a shared resource model, Emily Bivens, executive director of the chamber of commerce, would assume the role of managing the two entities. Jamestown Tourism would have two staff members, one for marketing and the other for sites and working with all tourism sites.

Ova said tourism is an important driver of economic development.

"For this area as well, tourism is definitely economic development," she said.

She said JSDC started funding tourism in the early 2000s and helped support White Cloud, the albino bison that spent most of her life with the herd at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown.

"JSDC will be happy to continue to see tourism-related activities and especially Bison World grow in the area," she said.

Ova complimented Swedlund's work with Frontier Village, which is owned by the city of Jamestown and currently managed by Jamestown Tourism. She said he's done everything for Frontier Village, including marketing, cleanup and renovations.

"He's done a fantastic job, she said. "I believe had he stayed he would have been very good at helping to promote Bison World and provide an excellent resource for that facility."

The Bison World project is a cultural and theme park that would be located on land utilized as pasture for the National Buffalo Museum herd in southwest Jamestown. When complete, the park would include an amphitheater, museums and other attractions to entertain and educate people about the American bison, which is the national mammal.

Heinrich said Swedlund has made Frontier Village a more interactive exhibit facility where people have more hands-on activities to experience when they visit. He also said Swedlund's leadership was desperately needed when the Frontier Village Association threatened to transfer the assets of Frontier Village to Perham Pioneer Village at Perham, Minnesota.

The Frontier Village Association later

dissolved and turned all assets and debt of the organization

to the city of Jamestown.

"If you have a defining moment, that was probably it for him," he said. "When you think of Searle, you think of how fortunate we were to have him at that difficult time."