Gerald "Jerry" Swiacki is a member of more than half a dozen organizations around Marco Island, but despite his extensive involvement, he still doesn't feel like he knows enough about the place he calls home, which is why he's participating in Leadership Marco.
Swiacki was born in Farmington Hills, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, before his family moved to Florida where he attended St. Leo Preparatory High School.
He went on to attend the University of Notre Dame and then the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then completed his post-graduate training in General Surgery at Botsford Hospital in Michigan.
After that he completed 40 years of surgical practice in Michigan; during that time he also served as an adjunct professor of medicine for Michigan State University where he actively trained medical students, interns and residents. He eventually moved to Florida where he completed another seven years of surgical practice before retiring in 2014.
“I loved being a doctor. As my father who was a doctor said: ‘I never worked a day in my life.’ I felt the same way,” he said. “I always enjoyed going to the hospital or office and caring for my patients. I also enjoyed the teaching part of my career. While in Michigan, I taught medical students, interns and residents. When I came to Florida I became involved with the teaching program for Physicians Assistants from Nova Southeastern University.”
Although Swiacki and his wife, Linda, didn’t become Marco Island residents until 2002, his history with the island dates back to 1960 when he first visited as a teenager. Since then he’s taken on a variety of roles that’s helped him increase his understanding the island’s different factions.
“I’ve been a tourist, a condo owner, a condo renter a single homeowner and a business person related to the island,” he said.
Most recently he served as chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and currently serves as the Vice President of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation and the Caxambas Republican Club. He’s also on the board of the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary, the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation and the Marco Men’s Club. He’s a member of the Marco Island Police Foundation and participates with the Marco Island Christmas Home Decoration Committee.
It was through his involvement with those many organizations that Swiacki learned about Leadership Marco, the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce's 10-week program that gets Marco Islanders together to learn the inner workings of the island and meet their fellow leaders.
“I learned about Leadership Marco from many of my various contacts in the organizations with which I participate,” he said. “I feel that by participating in Leadership Marco I can become more informed and obtain a better understanding of our community. By doing so, I can contribute more effectively."
Part of the reason why he's so passionate about contributing to the community is because it's one of his favorite things about Marco Island.
“Besides ‘living in paradise’ regarding climate, amenities and location, I like the sense of community on Marco Island,” he said. “We have a mix of older and younger people. We do not have a totally gated community, restricting certain elements of the populace. Finally, we have a nice mix of full time residents, part time residents and tourists.”
And all of those different types of people should strive to learn more about the place in which they live, work and go to school, Swiacki said.
“I think that Leadership Marco gives the opportunity for anyone who wishes to participate and become active in their community, to learn about the community, understand how it works and meet the people who make it work,” he said.
The Leadership Marco program consists of 10 bi-weekly sessions and gives its members insight into the following aspects of the island: history/museum; media; education/parks and recreation; hospitality/economics; law enforcement; culture/real estate; health care/fire-rescue; agriculture/environment; and government/transportation/infrastructure.
Leadership Marco Class of 2017 will meet every other Wednesday through November before its graduation ceremony on Jan. 27.