Months after the death of Fred Swegles, a career news writer and chronicler of San Clemente history, San Clemente Councilmember Gene James has proposed a special way for the city to honor one of its key contributors.
Strolling through the halls outside of the Council Chambers at City Hall, James gestured at the generous amount of white space that the city could fill with photos the beloved San Clemente reporter took of his journalistic exploits in town over the years.
“We could display his work in this hallway, not just (on) some board but a good portion of this hallway,” he told San Clemente Times on Monday, Feb. 6. “We could then rotate works into the chamber and out of the chamber.”
His proposal will be discussed at during the upcoming council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
As Swegles spent time at San Clemente High School’s The Triton, the Daily Sun-Post, the Orange County Register and submitted columns to the SC Times, James called the late writer an “icon” for recognizing the need to document the city’s growth.
“Imagine if we didn’t have his body of work,” he said. “We would not have the acute understanding of San Clemente history for the past 50 years that we do today.”
The idea for a potential display germinated after a conversation between James and former Mayor Lori Donchak that occurred months ago.
Donchak approached James, he said, questioning how the city could best show its appreciation for Swegles. Afterwards, when he came up to the City Hall’s second floor, the realization hit him.
Picket Fence Media CEO and Publisher Norb Garrett shared his of James’ suggestion.
“I’m appreciative of Councilmember James’ recommendation to honor Fred by featuring a collection of his photos and clippings in City Council chambers,” Garrett said. “Fred and his work are an important part of San Clemente’s history and should be featured in City Hall.”
A piece of information James believes will help Tuesday’s discussion is the likelihood that a local nonprofit organization will help cover the costs necessary to post Swegles’ photography work on the hallway walls.
James, who couldn’t disclose the name of the nonprofit on Monday, said the potential arrangement came from a separate conversation involving himself and the organization.
He added that an initial display could be a “cornerstone” leading to other exhibits of city history shown inside City Hall, such as early City Council minutes documenting the town’s development.
“Imagine the amount of material the (San Clemente) Historical Society has,” James said. “Imagine the material that the (San Clemente) Lifeguard and Junior Lifeguard Foundation has. I’ve seen some pretty incredible photographs.”
The council will begin its closed session meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in the Council Chambers, followed by the regular business meeting open to the public at 6 p.m. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel.