Civility is key to governing,
former commissioner says
If former county commissioner Linda Peterson could tell today’s commissioners one thing, it would be to treat each other with respect.
Peterson, appointed to Lucille Britain’s unexpired term in January 1992, served until 2001.
Like former commissioner Lori Lalouette and current commissioner Dianne Novak, she was the only woman on the commission.
“It was a little awkward at first, but I think we respected each other’s thoughts,” Peterson said. “We didn’t always agree, but we were considerate of one another in our disagreements.”
Peterson served with Charles Deforest and Leon Suderman, then Jack Brunner and Bob Hein.
“You could try to see where the other person is coming from and try to understand their viewpoint without being so vocal,” Peterson said.
A key issue, like today, was the county’s waste transfer station.
“We had the whole issue of wanting to build the waste transfer station,” she said.
The commission was divided on whether to build a station, but discussion and respect for each other’s viewpoints allowed the members to reach consensus on using Marion’s former power plant instead of building a new building.
“I remember it being civil,” she said.
Other accomplishments included a new system for 911 addressing and adding an elevator to the courthouse.
“That was an issue I cared very deeply about, and Charles and Leon didn’t care about it,” she said. “They thought we were serving the public by meeting them out at their cars. Charles and Leon said, ‘Let’s put it out to the public to vote on it,” and they resoundingly voted for it. That’s how we handled a disagreement.”
Peterson hasn’t wanted to go back on the commission.
“I served my time,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone in public office should stay for a career. I think really, 8 to 12 years is long enough for one person.”
New ideas are a good thing for the county, Peterson said.
“I think that’s what’s important. You need to listen to your constituents,” she said. “Even if you don’t agree with them, you need to listen to their concerns.”
Peterson, who found being a county commissioner a tough job, helped her husband on the family farm, worked at a meat locker at Burdick, and served eight years on the Centre School Board.
She and her husband now run a travel agency out of Burdick.
“You can’t make everybody happy,” she said. “You have to go in with an open mind, be considerate of one another, study both sides of an issue, and make a decision that you feel would be best for the county as a whole.”