I read with sorrow of the passing of Esther Swanker with whom I worked at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the 1980s. The Jan. 8 tribute article you published on all her many contributions to several civic organizations in Schenectady was well deserved for sure. But, I also wanted to note a couple of ground-breaking efforts of hers while she worked for the state.
In the early ‘80s, Esther was the driving force in the creation of an Employee Assistance Program in DOT, which was a first in state service. Working with the employee unions, the program trained employee volunteers to provide confidential referrals to fellow employees seeking assistance with family problems, drug-and-alcohol issues or other personal matters.
Esther’s biggest challenge was to convince management that this program not only benefited the employees directly, but it paid off for the department with employees who could function more productively. This wasn’t a popular way of thinking at that point in time, but her determination and persistence got it done and many DOT employees across the state were helped.
Around this same time, Esther was also instrumental in the creation of the Campus Day Care Center — another first. Esther was a driving force in the creation of the day care facility in Building 4 at the Harriman Campus, where employees could leave their children and be assured of quality day care close to their work locations. It was a very popular option for working parents from several agencies.
Esther made many wonderful contributions to the Schenectady community. She also was an innovative leader during her tenure with the state and left lasting legacies there as well.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion