Love Where You Live: Jill Swartz finds home for her heart and passions in Bristol

By Marshall V. King

When Jill Swartz talks about Bristol, her hometown, she says “we” and “us” a lot.

“It takes a village to do this,” she said as she sat in Cummins Park on a sunny, summer day.

The park itself, behind the Elkhart County Historical Museum, is a good example. Five years ago, the park didn’t have much going for it. The parks board put in a splash pad. That led to a fitness park and the donation of a wooden train.

“Our hidden park is a park for all to visit. A park that had nothing going for it is now the park everyone comes to. The moms with toddlers love it the most,” she said.

Swartz is the deputy town clerk who also happens to be a mother of two, a Girl Scout leader, and a planner of events for the community.

The town of Bristol’s parks are a particular point of pride for Jill Swartz. (Photos by Grant Beachy)

She’s working on the Halloween festival for the town. “We all come together to do this kind of stuff. I love things that bring people together,” she said.

She does whatever it takes to help Bristol. When she started in her job at the town hall 11 years ago, she mowed public spaces and drove snow plow trucks. That willingness to do anything got her involved in the Friends of the Park and Elkhart County Waterways Alliance, as well as planning the town Christmas tree lighting.

The little town of 1,602 (as of the last census) grows to as many as 10,000 during the workday. “Our industry has grown tremendously,” she said.

Those businesses support the parks and efforts such as Bristol on the River, a Main Street development group that got started three years with Swartz’s help.

“I love Bristol,” said Swartz, who moved a lot when she was a girl and found a true home when her family moved to the town. “I couldn’t imagine going somewhere else and being as passionate as I can be here.”

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