Tim Peterson strolled through Cloquet City Hall Tuesday, Jan. 21, with a golf club — something that has been a part of his office attire for years.
Cloquet’s new city administrator is an avid golfer in his spare time. He hasn’t fully decorated his office yet, but a used set of clubs was one of the things to make its way to City Hall during Peterson’s first few days on the job.
“I may not have it in council meetings, but pretty much any other time you see me, I’ll probably have one in my hand,” Peterson said with a smile.
Peterson took over the top job in Cloquet Jan. 13 after more than three years in the same role in Moose Lake.
Peterson grew up in Somerset, Wisconsin, and moved to northern Minnesota for college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Peterson met his wife — Janel, a Cromwell native — at UMD and decided to remain in the area after getting a bachelor’s degree in organizational management. Today, the couple live with their two children in Esko.
After graduation, his wife got a job with the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, which allowed him to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Prior to becoming involved in administration, Peterson served as the finance director of Life House Duluth — a nonprofit organization providing support and transitional housing to young people experiencing homelessness — and then as a deputy clerk and finance director for the City of Proctor.
Peterson said he expected to spend his career on the finance side of things, but was lured to administration by the variety it offers.
“It’s one of those jobs that doesn’t look the same from one day to the next,” he said. “I very much like working on different projects and with different departments. Sometimes someone from the public comes in with something they need — then you have to change gears and work on that.”
Peterson applied for the position in Cloquet because it is closer to his home in Esko and the city is essential to the family because of its proximity.
“I certainly feel tied to the community,” he said. “I have a good understanding of the city, and my family relies on Cloquet in many ways.”
In the early going, Peterson’s role has been to support the City Council and staff with some ongoing projects, like the Cloquet Public Library expansion and some upcoming road projects.
He also said he plans to work to find alternate ways to fund projects in Cloquet beyond property taxes.
“A large part of my role is planning future projects with sustainable funding that are not just property taxes,” Peterson said. “Property taxes are an overused and overburdened way to pay for projects.”
The Minnesota Department of Education awarded the city a $784,000 grant to help fund the $2.3 million, 7,000-square foot library expansion.
The MDE grant was a good way to pay for part of the project, but grants are typically a one time funding source. Peterson hopes to establish some revenue streams for the city that generate income year over year.
A second priority for Peterson is to hire a new chief for the Cloquet Police Department and to implement the police study completed in 2019. Former Chief Jeff Palmer resigned in August and Commander Derek Randall is currently serving in an interim capacity.
Cloquet Mayor Roger Maki said Peterson was the clear choice, not only because of his experience in finance and administration, but also because of his knowledge of the area as a local resident. Maki also emphasized that Peterson was the consensus choice among council members and Cloquet’s department heads.
What’s more, Peterson has testified to the Minnesota Legislature in favor of local option sales tax and other funding sources that do not burden local property owners.
“He’s a really good fit for us, and I’m really pleased we were able to get him — the timing was right,” Maki said. “We felt he had enough experience and education ... he knows the area, he’s been following the news in Cloquet for the last couple years and that’s all helpful.”
Peterson can be reached at Cloquet City Hall at 218-879-3347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.