ROSEAU, Minn. – Some “Roseauites” might not recognize Jack Swanson by sight, but anyone with a radio certainly recognizes him by voice.
During his time in Roseau, Minn., which includes two stints from 1979 through most of 1986 and then since 1996, the longtime radio personality — and, since 2006, county commissioner — figures he’s broadcast about 500 Roseau Rams games in various sports.
Between 1979 and 1986, Swanson worked for KRWB-AM 1410, covering sports in Roseau and nearby Warroad, Minn.
KRWB was the only radio station in Roseau County at the time, he recalls.
“I’d guess we broadcast 50-60 games per year,” he said.
Swanson and his wife, Nancy, both graduated from Park High School in the Twin Cities, but his family has roots in Roseau County. His mom grew up in Roseau and his dad in Warroad.
“We came up every summer,” Swanson said. “We spent every summer in a little — I suppose you’d describe it as a cabin — just outside of Roseau.”
The Swansons and sons Jeff and Willie, both of whom were born in Roseau, in late 1986 moved to Madison, Wis., where he spent a decade as the radio voice of the Wisconsin Badgers college hockey team.
The flavor of small-town life in northern Minnesota beckoned, though, and in 1996 they returned to Roseau, where Swanson and a partner started radio station KJ-102 FM.
“Most of our closest friends were still in Roseau,” Swanson said. “So although it wasn't where we grew up, it was pretty much like coming home again.”
The partners sold the station a few years ago, but Swanson continues to work on the air part-time, producing a local interview segment called “Friends and Neighbors” and — pre-pandemic, at least — stepping behind the mike to broadcast five to 10 Rams hockey and basketball games every winter.
As a Roseau County commissioner, Swanson has served on the board of the Association of Minnesota Counties since 2013 and was the group’s president in 2016. He has been a “great champion” for rural Minnesota, said Julie Ring, executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties.
“Jack is a gifted relationship-builder,” Ring said. “He is genuinely interested in the ideas that others bring to the table, and he puts people at ease. Perhaps because of his background in radio, Jack always asks great questions and encourages lively discussion, which always leads groups to better decisions.”
Swanson serves on more than 30 various committees, both locally and statewide, but describes his day-to-day life as “kind of boring.” Like many Roseau residents, though, Swanson speaks highly of the place he calls home.
“I think what's special about it is once you are immersed in the community, you're accepted as a neighbor,” he said. “That's probably true of most small towns, but that's the one I'm most familiar with as an adult. And I would extend that to saying, if you need help from your neighbors, your neighbors will gladly help you.
“I don't know that that happens necessarily in bigger towns.”