Have a question in Lake Nebagamon? Ask Swan Dawson

When Swan Schaller Dawson was growing up in the Town of Highland she knew she had her accountant father's knack for numbers and would use that talent for a career. She didn't know that her inherited knack for numbers would eventually lead her to ...

When Swan Schaller Dawson was growing up in the Town of Highland she knew she had her accountant father's knack for numbers and would use that talent for a career. She didn't know that her inherited knack for numbers would eventually lead her to be the financial heart of the Village of Lake Nebagamon, its Volunteer Fire Department, the First Presbyterian Church, the Nebagamon Community Association and, most recently, the newly formed Friends of the Imogene McGrath Memorial Library.

With a resume like that, is it any wonder that whenever someone wants to know anything about this Douglas County village they are simply told to "Ask Swan."

Added to all that public service is her decades-long job as the accountant for Sammy's Pizza and Elbo Room Restaurant in Superior, a position her father held before her. Dawson and her brothers and sisters grew up with the children of Elbo Room founder Dominic Giansanti and when his son Jeff took over the business it was only natural that Dawson would take care of his books just the way her father did for Dominic.

The ownership of the Elbo Room has now changed, but Dawson continues to be a mainstay of the establishment. Her own children feel that the popular Italian restaurant is part of their heritage and they look forward to visiting it every time they return to the Northland.

When Dawson took over at the Lake Nebagamon Village Clerk-Treasurer in 1980 she brought professionalism to the local government's business. She also brought her close relationship with Lake Nebagamon's businesses, organizations and residents.


A typical day in the village office will bring inquiries about everything from where a dearly departed is buried in the peaceful Lake Nebagamon Cemetery, to what property is for sale, how it is zoned and taxed, and to where a visitor can find an old friend believed to live in the area, just to name a few.

Since Lake Nebagamon's elected officials are all serving in part time positions, the day-to-day operation of the village, as well as supervision of its various departments, fall on Dawson's shoulders. She is responsible for filing state and federal reports, writes grant applications and requests for other funding and is expected to anticipate any future financial needs and how they can be met. She is also the secretary of the Sanitary Sewer Commission and the village's zoning administrator.

As the village has grown and the operation of local government has become more complex, Dawson has kept pace with the demands of the office with the help of her assistant, Diana Nelson. The office is now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.

Early in her tenure as village-clerk treasurer, Dawson realized the value of Lake Nebagamon's businesses and their importance to the overall tax base, but also for their contributions to life in the community life. Thriving existing businesses encourage both residential and commercial development, she says, and make the community more inviting to visitors. Lake Nebagamon's businesses have an assessed valuation of almost $6 million and employ scores of local residents.

Because of her active participation in so many aspects of the village's life, Dawson has first hand knowledge of the diversity of the Lake Nebagamon population, which ranges from very young families to a large number of retired senior citizens. As a Lake Nebagamon member of the volunteer fire department since 1990, she has worked with her husband, Fire Chief Jim Dawson, to expand the department's services and improve the training of the volunteers to meet state and federal requirements. Dawson is captain of the department's first responder and is a comforting familiar face to many of those in need of emergency services.

Dawson sees her work with the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Nebagamon, the Nebagamon Community Association and the new McGrath Library as extensions of her official position with the village and often says that the success of any government depends on the contributions of people from all facets of the community--officials, business owners, organizations, churches and individuals.

She helped revitalize the community association in the late 1970s and became the church treasurer in 1981. She served as the first treasurer of the Kids In Nebagamon organization and helped obtain state and federal approval of its non-profit and tax-exempt status. Her service to the community was honored in 2006 when she was named the Kids In Nebagamon "Woman of the Year."

Dawson is recognized as one of Lake Nebagamon's treasures and her number is on the speed dial of many local telephones. That's why whenever a question about the community comes up, the answer is "Ask Swan."

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