By Nancy Wick, UW Today
If you move into an office in the UW Tower complex, you will shortly receive a visit from the "happy camper team." That's the name Facility Manager Troy Swanson gives to the people on his staff who make sure new tenants have everything they need.
"We get people to write down things they don't like and we try to improve them," Swanson said. "We ask, 'Is the shelf on the right side? How about the light? Is it too bright? Is the desk the right height?' Whatever people complain about, we try to make it right. You want people to be comfortable because they're working here all day."
And that sums up the attitude of the man building occupants call "Mr. Customer Service." Now Swanson's service is being honored with a Distinguished Staff Award.
Swanson likes to joke that he came with the building, and in a way it's true. He was the facility manager when Safeco owned the property, and he was the man who showed the UW team around when the University was thinking about buying it. After months of interaction during the sale, the UW representatives were impressed enough that they suggested Swanson apply for the job. Thus the University got a manager already familiar with the facility, and one whose greatest pleasure seems to be in making people happy.
Swanson initially learned about the systems that make a building run when he joined the Navy at 17. "Ship systems are very similar to building systems," he said. You've got your life-safety, HVAC, electrical and water systems. So after I got out of the Navy I went to Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and took a training course in what's called power engineering."
After that he worked in hospitals before getting interested in the people side of the business; then he went from turning wrenches to managing the people who do.
"I like to talk," Swanson said in explanation. He also likes to say yes. In fact, he says yes a little too much. "I say yes and then my right hand man, Scott Bybee, says 'What were you thinking, Troy?' Then I have to go back and explain, 'Well this isn't really going to work but we have an alternative.' You always have to find something that will work for the customer."
Paul Jenny, UW vice provost for planning and budgeting, writing in support of the award nomination, said that his office manager, Linda Eskenazi, "believes Troy is actually the unnamed, though highly successful, mayor of this little city called the UW Tower Complex…. According to Linda, Troy has always been incredibly cordial, gracious and responsive to his 'citizens' as they shared their needs."
To help meet those needs, Swanson suggested that representatives from each floor meet monthly to discuss their concerns and their ideas for the building, and the UW Tower Floor Coordinators Committee was formed. Swanson attends those meetings, as do representatives from Transportation Services (they oversee the garage) and Housing & Food Services (there is a café in the tower).
One need that many occupants expressed was a need for art. Swanson said that Safeco took most of its art along when it vacated the building, leaving a lot of bare walls. When some people suggested exhibits featuring staff art, Swanson called a meeting for people who were interested. The UW Tower Art Committee was born, and managed to mount eight shows in their first year, including two featuring art made by the children of tower tenants.
The committee wrote in support of Swanson's nomination, "Troy's willingness to invest time and resources to support this grassroots art program has far exceeded our expectations. The success of the program has been amazing and we wouldn't have even gotten off the ground without his encouragement and commitment to our mission."
When a "Green Team" formed in the complex, Swanson was similarly supportive of their efforts, which include not only standard recycling and composting, but also recycling such items as bottle caps, pens and the pull tabs from soft drink cans, not to mention maintaining a garden on the patio.
Swanson doesn't do his job alone, of course. He has a staff of 13 — some of whom were with him at Safeco. Characteristically, he deflects a lot of the credit for his success to them, and to the tower complex occupants themselves.
"I believe people here have a lot of pride in their workplace," he said. "I've worked in a lot of buildings, but I've never been in a place where so many people want to see things happen, want to be part of it. I'm proud of everybody."