By John Hummer
The Village of Brooklyn has a new village manager, Matt Swartzlander, who is ready to fill a big role being vacated by seven-year village manager Jae Guetschow who is inching closer to retirement. Swartzlander officially joined the village staff the second full week of September.
“I look forward to working with the village council that I think has done a good job leading in the community,” he stated. I think just trying to build on what Jae has done – he’s done a phenomenal job in the last several years. We need to keep building on the solid structure and foundation of where we’re at.”
Swartzlander comes with a background in nonprofit management and business, having worked for the Boy Scouts of America and both the Jackson and Adrian (now Greater Lenawee) chambers of commerce, as well as his family printing business.
“Just through my advocacy work on the chamber side of things – working within local units of government, state government, and federal government, this type of position had grown on me,” he explained. “I think that experience of working with board leadership, community and business leaders, and working with volunteers and other people throughout the community – that experience of being able to build consensus and lead for the bigger picture – I think is something that will serve me well here.”
Swartzlander noted that his work experience in both Jackson and Lenawee counties will allow him to bring relationships from both areas to support his work in Brooklyn. “There are a lot of really good people that are willing to help and support me and the community, so I’m excited for the opportunity and the challenges that will come with a new job and that exist within a government.”
Swartzlander was also responsible for creating and being responsible for the budgets with his past Chamber work which will aid him in trying to keep a balanced budget for the Village of Brooklyn. “Without a sound process and financials, it makes it hard to keep focused on the important things,” he says.
In terms of his goals for the Village of Brooklyn, Swartzlander would like to see the community grow. “I think we’ve got opportunities for new residences and businesses, and to do some really good things within the business community that we do have,” he stated. “Obviously coming from the chamber side of things, that’s something that’s near and dear to me. Working side by side with the Irish Hills Chamber, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to really drive some solid economic and community engagement opportunities and development.” However, he notes, “I think the most important thing is to not lose the small town atmosphere that we all love, but to build some better amenities that are going to help our community continue to thrive for a long time.”
Swartzlander says that he will spend a lot of time in his early days on the job learning the ins and outs of sewers and other infrastructure. “When I took the job, I knew I would spend a lot of time getting to know that side of things.”
He also looks forward to working with new DPW Administrator Sandy Kimball. “With her leading the great DPW team we have, I think it’s an exciting time – along with the restructuring – to look at what’s important and where we need to take that department,” Swartzlander said.
Swartzlander grew up in Jackson and is a 2001 graduate of East Jackson High School. From there, he went to Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass., in the metro Boston area, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history. But the real reason he went there? “I had the opportunity to play Division 3 baseball,” he said. “And I studied history – and there are not many better places to go than Boston to study history because it’s all around. It’s a beautiful city. I love New England.”
Following his college years, Swartzlander returned to the Jackson area. Shortly thereafter, he landed a job with the Boy Scouts of America. “I worked with volunteers and community leaders to help run the program,” he noted. His first assignment was in the Jackson-Lenawee-Hillsdale counties’ area. That was followed by an assignment in Livingston County before he moved back for a higher-up role in his home district. Swartzlander was with BSA for about five years total.
“That really kind of started me on the nonprofit path with volunteer program and event experience,” he said.
Around 2013, Swartzlander had the opportunity to join the family business for a couple years. His family had been in the printing business for many years in the Adrian and Jackson areas, having owned Legacy Printing.
In 2015, he had the opportunity to join the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce doing marketing and events. “I really enjoyed working in the community and working to better the business community,” he said. He became the Chamber’s events and legislative director.
In June of 2019, Swartzlander was hired as the executive director of the Adrian Area Chamber of Commerce. “That was a phenomenal opportunity to take the next step at that time in my career,” he noted.
Eight months into that role, the pandemic hit. “It allowed and the organization to focus on what was important,” he shared. “We were able to do some really good things for the businesses throughout the Adrian area and have an impact with the sharing of COVID information. That turned out to help the organization find some grounding.”
By the end of 2020 heading into 2021, the Adrian and Tecumseh chambers of commerce began discussions of a merger. “We merged the organizations in 2021 and brought them together as the Greater Lenawee Chamber,” Swartzlander said. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished there and the greater good that organization is going to be able to do throughout Lenawee County, along with the board of directors and countless volunteers that made that happen.”
Swartzlander resides with his family at Vineyard Lake. He is married to Valerie Herr, former director of the Brooklyn Food Pantry and now executive director of the Adrian Center for the Arts. He has two stepsons – Alec, a senior at Siena Heights University, and Nathan, who lives in the Sault Ste. Marie area, who will soon be married.
In addition to being an avid baseball fan, Swartzlander and his family enjoy the lake life of fishing, boating, and kayaking. They also like to participate in community events.