Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc. was formerly known as Coenen/Swandby Associates, Inc. The firm was informally founded in October,
1988, when Tom Coenen and Janet Swandby began working together. The
two later formally incorporated the firm as Coenen/Swandby Associates,
Inc. In 2006, Kathi Kilgore became a shareholder in the firm and the name was changed.
was the Coenen in Coenen/Swandby?
After more than 30 years as an association manager and lobbyist, Tom
Coenen died of lung cancer on September 21, 1997. Both the Wisconsin
State Senate and Assembly passed resolutions honoring his life and Governor
Tommy G. Thompson attended his funeral.
Coenen was a remarkable man. He built two successful businesses; his
service station on University Avenue and his Lobbying and Association
Management practice. Tom was a unique individual who combined talents
that we rarely see in one person. Tom was a good athlete and was someone
who could work with his hands. Tom was also an excellent communicator
and someone who would work with his mind.
was a lobbyist who was proud of his chosen profession. He didn't apologize
about being a lobbyist in spite of the nasty stereotypes of our profession.
Tom believed in our system of government. He believed our system gave
everyone a voice and lobbyists like him simply turned up the volume.
Tom was the voice of the little guy... the gasoline dealers, the septic
haulers, the innkeepers, the tourism industry and many others.
challenged convention. He was a lobbyist who truly emerged from the
grass roots. He was a graduate of Edgewood High School, but someone
who never did graduate from college and he built a successful lobbying
business when almost all lobbyists were attorneys.
built a successful business representing "the little guy." His lists
of accomplishments are filled with David and Goliath stories. The Franchise
Law in Wisconsin is a model for the nation in its protection for franchisees---the
little guys. The Petroleum Environmental Clean-up fund or PECFA was
Tom's idea. He saw that the Federal government was going to require
the clean up of all petroleum spills and there was no way small gasoline
dealers could afford to pay for that kind of clean up. Along the way,
some people have complained about how PECFA has been implemented but,
without it, each and every property owner would have been responsible
for the environmental clean up on their own and thousands of small business
people would have gone out of business. When there was a push to legalize
gambling in Wisconsin, lobbyists were lining up to represent the future
owners of horse and dog tracks. Tom Coenen literally represented the
dogs, the National Greyhound Association, and secured the largest purse
in the Nation, for "the little guys", the dog owners.
Coenen has left his mark on many of the laws of the State of Wisconsin.
Tom Coenen was regarded in the Capitol as a good Lobbyist, but as one
of our colleagues said when he learned that Tom's cancer was terminal,
"you know, I have always thought of Tom Coenen as a good lobbyist, but
more than that Tom is good people". Those lobbyists who were on opposite
sides of the issues not only had the greatest respect for Tom's ability,
they also liked him.
finest quality as a person and as a lobbyist, was that he was as honest
as the day is long. Legislators and their staff always knew that Tom
told the truth. In fact, he often told more than he needed to. Withholding
information to Tom was as much as a lie as giving inaccurate information.
Tom lived the creed "no surprises", and legislators were always happy
to work with him. Tom was a soft spoken man and he had a way of quietly
getting the attention of busy lawmakers. He was able to ask for a favor
or ask a question that would always elicit an answer.
was comfortable with people and they were comfortable with him. All
people. There were no social strata in Tom's world. Everyone was
treated with the same respect, and his success as a lobbyist was because
of it. You see, legislative staff members become legislators, freshman
legislators become leaders, minority party members become majority party
members, and the assembly minority leader becomes governor. Tom treated
all people with the same compassion and respect, and it was returned
to him five-fold.
Tom was always an optimist. I can't tell you the number of times
we would be coming back from a public hearing on an issue that one of
our clients cared about and I would be obsessing about the hostile questioning
by one legislator or the bone-headed response one of our testifiers
had given. We would get back, talk about how it went, and Tom would
always say it had gone great. Tom always saw the best in everyone and
the book Emotional Intelligence, an optimist is defined as someone
who believes that we can make a difference, that it does matter what
we do, that we can change things for the better. Tom Coenen believed
that, and Janet Swandby still does.
Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc. maintains Tom Coenen's legacy by putting other people
first, by being optimists, by believing that we can make a difference
and that we can help you make things better, and finally, by making
sure that we look out for the "little guy."
Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc.
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