According to a press release, his credits include various episodes of the “Gilmore Girls,” “Everwood,” “Person of Interest” and “Eli Stone,” as well as numerous other TV shows and pilot productions.
But even though he gets calls every few weeks from people encouraging him to escape Arizona’s summer heat for an assignment in the cooler climes of Hollywood, Swanson has found a job that’s even more appealing: Running Leaf Verde RV Resort, his family’s 377-site RV park in Buckeye.
“It’s a lot of stress to deal with executive producers. It’s a lot of stress to deal with the actors. But here, I’m free of all of that,” Swanson said. “It’s like being on a cruise ship.”
That’s not to say that running an RV resort is not without its challenges.
Swanson’s grandfather, Andy Anderson, a co-founder of the famed Iowa Beef Processors (IBP), built the park with other family members in 1985, partly out of frustration over not finding a park with RV sites large enough for his Prevost motorhome towing a trailer.
But soon after the family member managing the RV park retired, it fell into disrepair. Swanson and his mother, Sandy Catalana, came back to run the park five years ago.
“Our original plan was to fix it up, kick out the riff raff, and put it on the market to sell,” Swanson said. But things didn’t work out the way he had planned.
“I rented a motorhome and stayed here a couple of months,” Swanson said. “I decided I should take the season off from television and stayed through the winter season. I started enforcing the rules. I made some enemies along the way, and I had a mass exodus because of the enforcement of the rules. But I also started seeing improvements that needed to be made. I was like the ‘Undercover Boss.’ But in the process of fixing up the park, I fell in love with the place.”
Since 2010, Swanson and his family have invested more than $1 million in improvements, including new electrical, water and sewer connections, renovating the heated swimming pool, a dog park, new laundry facilities as well as improvements to make the resort compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
These improvements and Leaf Verde’s exceptional customer service have helped the resort earn all around “A” ratings in the GuestRated.com consumer surveys in 2013 and 2014, the nation’s most thorough online rating system for campgrounds. Only 34 out of about 4,000 campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across America received all around ‘A’ ratings in GuestRated.com consumer surveys in both 2014 and 2013.
Leaf Verde is also expanding its offering of activities, which now includes card games to arts and crafts to live entertainment provided by retired musicians who stay at the park.
Business, meanwhile, has rocketed 210% since 2010, and Swanson believes the winter of 2015-2016 will be the park’s strongest season yet.
“We are now a major economic force in our community,” Swanson said. “We’re Buckeye’s largest hotel for RVers. We pay transient occupancy tax. I had 5,488 visitors last year staying anywhere from one day up to several months spending money in the local economy. Last season, we had a waiting list of people wanting to get into the park.”