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Culture - Feb 4, 2022

Waupaca Foundry’s Brian Swan Named “Hometown Hero” by State of Wisconsin Assembly

Kim Viduski | Waupaca Foundry

(Left to right) Brian Swan, Representative Katrina Shankland, Victor Voss in the Assembly Parlor following the Hometown Heros ceremony while holding their awards.

Wisconsin State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) says this about Waupaca Foundry employee Brian Swan. “His continued advocacy in the legislature to initiate and pass a bill into law to protect first responders and roadside workers truly demonstrates the power of every person’s voice.”

Brian is a second generation foundryman and has been with the iron casting supplier for 35 years. He is a First Responder and the only remaining member of the initial Emergency Response (Hazmat) Team founded at Waupaca Foundry in 1988. Brian is also a volunteer firefighter, serving his community for over 37 years. He’s the Assistant Fire Chief with the Amherst Fire Department, and he’s done everything – from rushing into burning buildings to extracting crash victims from crumpled vehicles.

If you ask him what he’d prefer; the burning building or the crash site, he’d probably surprise you by saying, “the burning building.” He explains, “We have gear and equipment to protect us against fire. We don’t have that kind of protection when we respond to roadway emergencies. We’re at the mercy of speeding traffic and inattentive drivers. We’re in real danger out there.”

Three years ago, after a driver slammed into a fire truck at a highway accident, Assistant Chief Swan felt enough was enough. So he, along with Amherst Fire Chief Victor Voss, spearheaded a coalition to strengthen the laws regarding emergency roadside events. It took three years, with multiple trips to the State Capitol to testify to the importance of the bill, but their efforts resulted in 2021 Wisconsin Act 115, a law that created an emergency response zone around accidents that includes additional penalties for traffic violations like reckless driving.

Brian has been named a “Hometown Hero” by the Wisconsin State Assembly for his efforts. The Hometown Heroes program recognizes individuals from around the state who make a difference in our communities. Brian has done so with his dedication and moxie in getting the 2021 Wisconsin Act 115 passed. He was commended by the Wisconsin State Assembly on January 25th during its scheduled floor session.

Rep. Shankland states, “I am pleased to have nominated Chief Voss and Assistant Chief Swan for one of the highest honors awarded by the Wisconsin State Assembly. I sincerely thank them for their tireless efforts to get this bill introduced, passed, and signed into law over… as well as the many ways they serve our community every day to keep us safe.”

Assistant Fire Chief Swan says, “I’m really proud to have helped bring this important new law forward, and I hope that it will help protect the lives of all of our state’s firefighters, paramedics, EMT’s, State Patrol, law enforcement, highway workers, tow truck operators, and other first responders and roadside workers.”

Waupaca Foundry knows the importance of such dedicated first responders. It supports Assistant Fire Chief Swan and other employees who volunteer in local emergency medical service departments by allowing them to leave work to respond to emergencies as well as be compensated for that time away.

Photo from the 2018 Portage Country Fire Chief's Association award ceremony. Assistant Chief Brian L Swan (left) and Interior Firefighter Bart Sopa (right) both work full-time at Waupaca Foundry while also serving in volunteer capacity for the Amherst Fire District. They are pictured with Fire Chief Victor R. Voss (middle).

In 2018, the Portage County Fire Chief’s Association (PCFCA) even awarded Waupaca Foundry Platinum recognition for its support of local volunteer fire and EMS departments. Communities, especially the smaller communities, need their volunteer fire and EMS department members to answer the call for help, at all hours, including work hours. Waupaca Foundry not only understands that but goes beyond mere support by paying while they are on an emergency call. The PCFCA wanted to recognize the Foundry for that.

There are very few companies that let their people leave work to respond to calls, let alone pay them to do so,” says Brian. “I know I speak for all the surrounding Volunteer Fire Departments that have members employed at Waupaca Foundry that it makes a huge difference knowing volunteers are able to respond.” He continues, “All fire departments are suffering. A lot of the volunteer memberships are down. So when accidents or fires happen we need all hands on deck.”

To Waupaca Foundry, supporting the volunteer emergency responders is helping protect those we care about the most:  Its employees, families, and communities. We live in small communities, and those who get called to fires or accidents are really helping their very own neighbors or families or friends. “It’s such a relief to know help is on the way from wherever that help can come from; and oftentimes that’s straight from Waupaca Foundry,” Brian says.
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