In this month’s OPAL Asks, we introduce you to OPAL chairperson, Steve McSwiggan, and learn why he stepped up to lead our volunteer committee.
Formerly of London, Steve McSwiggan is a resident of the town of Ingersoll, his home for the past 20 years. He came here after marrying his wife Denise, a lifetime Oxford County resident. The couple have two teenaged boys who were born and raised here. “Thanks to my wife’s local roots, our family has been privileged to grow and flourish in Oxford County,” says Steve. “I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family and my community against the possibility of a mega-landfill spoiling our quality of life.”
Commitment to community was well-entrenched in Steve when he attended Fanshawe College, studying General Arts and Business with a major in marketing. Elected to the student executive council as Vice-President of Entertainment, Steve coordinated the frosh week, pub nights and other events to round out the social side of student life. The experience brought insight into working within a democratic organization, along with the foundations of project-management.
After working for a few years in various industries, Steve accepted an apprenticeship in tool and die, returned to Fanshawe to earn journeyman status and began practicing as a machine tool builder. In time, Steve’s skills also encompassed mechanical engineering, design and process integration.
Destiny intervened and to Steve’s pleasant surprise, Oxford County proved an excellent fit for him. “I started making friends in Woodstock in the late 80s, not knowing I would become a permanent resident or that my professional career would blossom in this community, but as fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened.”
Steve worked as a project coordinator and research and development supervisor with Arcelor Mittal (formally known as Standard Tube) for 17 years, honing his skills in project management and engineering techniques, specializing in assembly process machinery. Offered a position in the engineering department, Steve recalls, “It was there that I really learned the techniques of fostering teamwork and working towards a common goal.”
These techniques were put to good use recreationally. For three years, Steve held elected executive positions for the Fanshawe Yacht Club. He also encouraged teamwork as a baseball and hockey coach in Ingersoll.
His passion for fairness and results are clearly evident, especially when the cause is important to the community he lives in.
Steve's determination in opposing the landfill proposal was sparked a few years ago when Toronto purchased land near his hometown of Lambeth. "I was dumbfounded that this large city could purchase a piece of property and build a landfill far removed from its own borders."
He was shocked to learn earlier this year that a private corporation, Walker Industries, was proposing something similar – indeed, even larger - on the border of his adopted hometown of Ingersoll. "My concerns became: How could this happen here? How will this small yet growing, progressing community absorb or survive the negative impacts of such a massive waste disposal site?”
To Steve, Walker Industries’ proposal to build potentially Ontario’s largest landfill here is not a NIMBY [Not in My Backyard] issue. “It is very clearly the wrong idea in the wrong place. We must not be forced into an arrangement that has the potential to crush the growing aspirations and health of this community for generations!"