Energetic builder has a lot to offer
May 7, 2003
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on builders of South Lake Tahoe by Steve Brown, an instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College, where he teaches a class on the Science of Building. Each article profiles a person at the South Shore who is a builder or structures as well as actively involved in building a better community.
If you happen to be at a family gathering in Dena Schwarte’s home, please don’t bring up politics. Her son-in-law is the Secretary of State in a neighboring state and she used to be a member of the Central Committee of El Dorado County for the opposite party.
Politics aside, Schwarte is a lovely, vivacious and energetic lady who has given herself to some wonderful causes. She presently serves as the chairwoman of the Barton Memorial Hospital Foundation and sits on the board of the hospital. Early on, at the age of 21, she emulated her mother’s activity in the Bay Area by serving on the Family Services Agency Board in San Francisco.
Born in the rugged Cherokee country of eastern Oklahoma, she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. From there, her family introduced her to Tahoe and they spent many of their vacations here. Schwarte has three children and three grandchildren. Somewhere in there she completed the formal education required to qualify her as a professional in childhood development. But, as happens with so many building professionals, the lure of the building trade led her back to a career in construction.
Schwarte was introduced to the field by her stepfather, who built “spec” homes and did refurbishment work. As an adult and budding entrepreneur she was soon doing the same, with good success. In 1972 she moved to Tahoe. Over time she wanted to get into commercial building, so she took classes and tests and was awarded her contractor’s license in the late 1970s.
Asked about her proudest achievement in the area of construction, she reminisced about her favorite restoration project. She and her parents restored the old Minden Inn, designed by the famous French architect, De Longchamps, and built in 1912.
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“At that time it was the largest hotel in Nevada. The project involved research similar to archeology,” she said.
Douglas County bought the registered landmark and it presently is used by various county agencies.
Schwarte loves people, traveling and building things. Fluent in French, Paris is her favorite vacation destination. Although fully occupied with her present public service, she will remain interested in construction and wants to encourage other women to get into the field.
“We have a lot to offer,” she said.