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Retirement Looms For Peterson
After more than six years with the City of Escalon, Duane Peterson is ready to turn in his office key and settle in to retirement.

Sort of.

Originally brought on board in September of 2003 as the City Planner, Peterson more recently was the city's Community Development Department Director, overseeing both building and planning. He is retiring, but will still come in one day a week to assist the city with building and planning issues while the position is being re-tooled.

Peterson said he has enjoyed his time with the city, and came to Escalon from a similar position with the City of Gonzalez. Prior to that, he was in the military, where he achieved the rank of major before leaving the service.

"We were going into the peak of the building along McHenry, with the new Guaranty Bank and Ace Hardware by the Vineyard, along with the subdivision behind it," Peterson said of major projects he has been involved in over the past few years. "We also had several starts of 'hoped to be' projects."

Most prominent among them was the Frontiers Community Development housing project that has yet to come to fruition, pulled from consideration when the economy slumped.

"There is interest in the industrial park," Peterson added of the Liberty Business Park off Highway 120 at Brennan.

However, with no infrastructure there yet, it is hard to entice businesses to commit to being a part of the park, said Peterson.

"We do have limitations in our sewer capacity," he added. "At our western end, we developed a test well for additional water that showed promise, to serve that side of town and the industrial park but there are still major hurdles to be crossed."

Eventually, Peterson said, he anticipates the Liberty Business Park will be a reality, but it will take time, and money.

As far as what he enjoyed the most about working in Escalon, Peterson said it was the people, both in the community and those he worked with among the city staff, that made the difference.

"I gravitate to small towns, I'm not in to the big city issues so I really enjoy the small town folks," he said. "I've lived in and near big cities and I've had enough."

Peterson said he was blessed to work with a dedicated Planning Commission.

"They've been fantastic," he said, adding the he has also enjoyed working with the City Council and community residents, who he said "become well informed quickly" about ongoing issues that may affect them.

"They don't say no just to say no," Peterson added of residents opposing projects. "They will raise their concerns."

His most satisfying project here, he said, was seeing "the dramatic change in the Community Center" when that renovation was completed, and working to get the new Civic Center to house the police department up and running. The city's general plan has also been updated during his tenure and the city achieved its first certified housing element under his guidance.

He pointed to the city's growth management ordinance as being well known, not just in the Central Valley, but around the state and suggested that anyone that the city brings in to fill the post should keep that in mind.

"They need to learn and maintain the character of what the city actually is," he said. "It is proud of its size."

With some travel plans in retirement, Peterson said he will miss those he has worked with, but with one day a week still devoted to city business - for now - he can slowly make his exit.

He and his wife, Judy, plan to make some trips to visit grandchildren as well as do some touring. His wife, in fact, wants to do the 'sky walk' over the Grand Canyon. Peterson said he would be content to wave to her from solid ground as she walks out over thin air.

City staff members from Escalon and some from his previous city of Gonzalez gathered for a retirement luncheon for Peterson at the Escalon Community Center on Friday, sharing stories of the past few years. Wife Judy said she is grateful for the supportive staff her husband had to work with and said though she is looking forward to his retirement as well, she is glad he will stay with the city for one day a week.

"At least I get Wednesdays off," she quipped.