By Dan Whitney
Linda Peterson has literally "been there since the beginning," when it comes to Cherokee's Parks and Recreation Department.
In January of 1975, the city of Cherokee combined the city's Parks, Recreation, Swimming Pool, and Community Center departments into one, naming the new department the "Parks and Recreation Department" - or "Parks and Rec," as it soon came to be called.
A short while later, Dr. Don Koser contacted Linda Peterson to see if she would be interested in a part-time job as a secretary for the new department. Peterson had previously worked as a secretary, first at Washington High School and then at the Mental Health Institute, but had quit her job at MHI to be a "full-time Mom," raising her two young sons, Kirk and Kyle.
When Dr. Koser called her, Peterson said, she had just been thinking to herself that she would really like to get back into the workforce after nine years, on at least a part-time basis, as her sons were now in school, and she needed something to do.
She gladly accepted Dr. Koser's offer, and started her job as a part-time secretary in the Parks and Recreation Department in February, 1975.
At the end of this month - on February 28 to be exact - Linda Peterson will be working her last day at Parks and Rec - 32 years after she began. Peterson's job became a full-time position a couple of years after she started, and she has basically been the "face and voice" of the Parks and Recreation Department ever since.
The Department was originally run by a five-member board, which was increased to seven members, until it was disbanded in 1994. Since that time, Parks and Rec. questions and concerns have been taken directly to the City Council.
Peterson said her job has been a fun job, and that she enjoys coming to work every day because "every day is something different." She feels that she has been fortunate to work with a "fantastic" group of co-workers, and they have been involved in a lot of activities and fund-raisers over the years. She feels that the things she will miss most when she retires are her co-workers and "just the general contact with people," both co-workers and customers.
Peterson's son Kirk and his family now live in Angola, Indiana, and Kyle and his family live in Milford. Her late husband, Dan, died in an accident two years ago.
She said she has "no big plans" for retirement activities, but that one thing she will certainly do is visit her sons and families. She has five grandchildren - three boys and two girls.
Traveling in general is one thing Peterson would like to do in the future, as she says she has never traveled before. She is especially looking forward to the summer, saying it has been "31 years since (she) had a summer off," due to that season being the prime season for parks and recreation activities. Linda also has a landscaping project at home that she has not had enough time to finish, so she is looking forward to doing that, as well as having her first garden.
Peterson said it has been fun watching the Aquatic Center and Gillette Park projects develop in the last few years, and shared that she used to work in the "basket room" at the old swimming pool when she was a teenager.
Peterson is really looking forward to "doing whatever I want to do" after February 28th, but if you'd like to see her to wish her well, there is going to be a retirement coffee for Linda from 4- 6 p.m. on her last day of work, February 28th (which she said is also her son Kyle's birthday).
The location of the retirement celebration?
The Cherokee Community Center.