Three employees will reach 40-year milestones this year with Parks Services Superintendent Jeff Schwartz topping the short list with one month more than the other two. Hired as a labor maintenance worker a few weeks before his 21st birthday, Jeff started on January 3, 1984.
He said, “My first day I worked on constructing a new playground at Schell Park. I’ve watched Plano grow – time has really flown by so fast – it’s a good place to be.”
Born in Aurora, Illinois, Jeff has been in his current position for 16 years. He manages five cost centers involving in-house and contract services maintenance of park and public building grounds, as well as the management of irrigation and landscape renovations within the City.
Jeff has worked under nine mayors, five city managers and five Parks department directors. He talked about working here:
What was Plano like when you started in the 80s?Development was very sparse west of Coit Road and north of Legacy Drive (formerly Carpenter Road). Much of the parkland developed today was acquired in the 80s. Downtown Plano has changed tremendously! Collin Creek Mall was only a few years old and was very popular at that time. Our supervisors were issued pagers rather than cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and purchase orders were on carbon-copy forms with pre-stamped numbers. Parks uniforms back then were green (then brown) and city vehicles were tan.
You’re still here because you obviously love it. What drew you to this profession and what’s kept you here over the years?I love the outdoors, so it was the perfect fit. I soon realized what a great parks department (and City) this is, and great people I work with too. I wanted to continue to be a part of that. If I weren’t a parks superintendent, I would have become a commercial airline pilot instead.
From the beginning, did you see yourself here for 40 years?At the time, I never imagined I would stay with the department more than five years. 😊
In his down time, Jeff and his wife Carla like to relax on the beach or hike with their dog Zandy, a Shih Tzu/Havanese. They are proud parents of son Patrick and dote on their adorable grandsons who are ages 2 and 6. Enjoying Philippine mangos is a guilty pleasure, but Jeff’s favorite family ritual is spending the holidays with friends and family. He’s fueled by a favorite quote of his dad’s, “You can do anything you want if you have the right tools in your toolbox.”
Parks and Recreation Director Ron Smith said of his years with Schwartz:“Not sure what to say...Jeff is like the North Star, Polaris, – steady, constant and dependable; someone who can always be counted on no matter what. His vast knowledge and familiarity with the City’s park system (gained over many, many years), reminds me of that ancient barrel of flour and vessel of oil that never failed. And what’s more astounding, he is consistently organized, always prepared and completely trustworthy. It’s a privilege to be associated with someone of his character. The department and the City are fortunate to count Jeff as an employee and a leader.”
Each milestone year, City employees receive special anniversary benefits. The 40-year milestone recognition package includes:
City Manager Mark Israelson shared thoughts about Jeff’s contributions to the City:“Forty years is an exceptional milestone for Jeff Schwartz. He has contributed to the initial growth and development of the Plano Parks System and is now working on some of the redevelopment. Jeff has been around for four of the five gold medals the Plano Parks and Recreation department has been awarded. Along with the outstanding Parks team, he is a key reason for their sustained success. Congratulations, Jeff. Thank you for your many years of service!”