The City of San Clemente will recognize the work of longtime reporter and late San Clemente figure Fred Swegles within the walls of its own City Hall, per a unanimous vote by the City Council this week.
At its meeting on Tuesday night, Feb. 7, the council approved Councilmember Gene James’ proposal to restore images and articles Swegles had created during his journalistic career that spanned a half-century.
Swegles’ sister, Barbara Chamberlin, spoke at the meeting about his love and dedication to San Clemente in covering all types of events, including city government, festivals and countless others. Chamberlin said an exhibit would be the “perfect way” to show the city over the years.
“While writing these articles, Fred also took what seems to be an almost infinite number of photos that captured the history of San Clemente and our people,” she said. “His photos are truly amazing.”
James called the late journalist an icon who chronicled the other icons in town. He pointed out the number of San Clemente figures who have died in recent years, and that Swegles created something “everlasting” through his career portfolio.
The process of restoring and posting images held by Chamberlin, the Orange County Register, and San Clemente Times will be costly, James acknowledged, but he added that he was proud to bring the item forward and hoped for his colleagues’ support.
Councilmember Victor Cabral voiced his support for the concept but had procedural questions such as who would own the posted works, for liability’s sake, and how the city would bring the project together if it did want to include items from the San Clemente Historical Society in the future.
The council would provide guidance to city staff for them to handle any logistical issues, Mayor Chris Duncan responded. All the other councilmembers expressed that they were in favor of the effort.
Other public speakers on Tuesday included Swegles’ friends, Greg Cruse and Jonathan Jenkins, as well as Picket Fence Media CEO and Publisher Norb Garrett, with whom Swegles worked as a columnist for SC Times.
Garrett shared that he spoke with James about the concept as a way to honor Swegles, in addition to conversations with Swegles’ family. He stated his support and availability to help and assured the council there would be no issues in securing Swegles’ works for non-commercial use.
Jenkins recalled Swegles’ time as a local musician growing up in town and said an exhibit would be “so appropriate.” Cruse, former CEO of USA Surfing, spoke of how Swegles was a leader in covering surfing events.
“The soul of this town is represented in his work,” said Cruse, “and I think it’d be a fitting tribute to the town and also to Fred if we could put his work on the walls for everyone here to see.”