Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc.


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.


Who 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.

Tom 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.

Tom 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.

Tom 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.

Tom 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.

Tom 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.

Tom's 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.

Tom 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.


Making A Difference

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 everything.

In 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.


Living the Legacy

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."





Janet R. Swandby


Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc.





Government Relations | Association Management


Swandby/Kilgore Associates, Inc.