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CASTR VALLEY FORUM Wednesday, February 11, 2015

After 14 Years On-the-Go, CVs Chief Problem-Solver Heads for Retirement
By Linda Sandsmark
Bob Swanson, who has dedicated most of his adult life to the citizens of Castro Valley, is ready for a long "staycation."

When he retires next month, the constituent liaison for county Supervisor Nate Miley is simply planning to relax by the pool at his Castro Valley home.

"When most people retire, they pack up and travel. I was in the navy and traveled all over the world. I've had enough travelling," says Swanson, 68. "Of all the places I've been, Castro Valley is about the nicest place in the world. The climate is just about perfect. I was raised in Chicago, and when I got here I said to myself, 'Oh man, this is like a dream. It's like the best place on the whole planet'."

During his 14-year tenure at the supervisor's district office on redwood Road, Swanson has assisted residents on land use, public works and affordable housing issues for Alameda County District 4 which includes Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Pleasanton and parts of Oakland. He helped write the county's medical marijuana ordinance and secured startup funds for the Ashland Free Clinic.

Swanson joined up with Miley during the 2000 election cycle. Miley opposed a controversial Highway 238 bypass through Castro Valley, so Swanson supported him by convincing 80 residents of Grove Way to put Miley's campaign signs in their front yards.

An impressive 74 percent of Swanson's precinct turned out to vote, and Miley was elected. The next year Swanson went to work for Miley - 20 hours a week in the Castro Valley office. At first he wasn't sure he wanted the job.

"I said I'd give it a try, and if I liked it I'd stay, if I didn't I'd quit, and if I did anything they didn't like they could fire me," recalls Swanson.

That never happened. In fact, over the years the job has evolved to the point where Swanson had to be "ready to jump 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Now he's ready to trade that stress for the "bed and breakfast" setting he and his wife Donna have created at home.

"There are a lot of things I'm still interested in here," he says. "I'll be around."

Swanson had always been a renter until age 65, when he and Donna bought a house with a 20 by-40-foot pool. They went all in for home-ownership, adding solar panels to reduce their electric bills. However, Swanson says he's never been able to stay home and enjoy it. Since the 2008 recession, county issues have taken up more and more of his time.

The recession, the Castro Valley Streetscape and Lewelling Streetscape all happened at once and all were stressors. Castro Valley never had commercial vacancies before the recession, and suddenly a number of businesses closed up. We weren't used to that here," says Swanson. "I'm glad that things are better now. Businesses are starting to come back and people are mellowing out."

Swanson moved to Castro Valley in 1973. In the 1980s he founded the Caltrans Tenant's Association, which represented renters in 500 local units - homes the state had acquired, but never demolished, when the Highway 238 bypass plan stalled. The tenant's association helped ward off rent hikes and evictions for hundreds of residents.

Prior to his arrival in Castro Valley Swanson spent four years in the U. S. Navy, achieving the rank of Yeoman, Petty Officer 3rd Class. His military travels took him to Hawaii, Vietnam, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey and Malta. He decided to stay in the Bay Area after being stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station.

Following his military service, Swanson earned an A.A. from Chabot College and a B.A. in both Psychology and India Studies from Sonoma State. After further study in India, he became a meditation instructor and volunteered on a myriad of civic and advocacy groups in the East Bay.

He was also instrumental in establishing Castro Valley Farmer's Market, which his wife managed for the first two years.

A more extensive list of accomplishments, along with photos of Swanson with dozens of luminaries, may be seen on his Naval biography website, 

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