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This chairman of the board goes way, way, way back

LeRoy Peterson, Chairman of Town of Clifton for 41 years, is an example of long public service and commitment to his community. <i>Jillian Dexheimer photo</i>

This chairman of the board goes way, way, way back

Who remembers 1970? Richard Nixon is president. The Beatles bid farewell. The Vietnam War and antiwar protests are in full swing.

Oh, and by the way, local farmer LeRoy Peterson starts the first of his 41 years as chairman of the Clifton Town Board.

Peterson, 84, was born and raised in Clifton.

Married to Mary, who passed away in June 2009, Peterson raised all six of his children in the town of Clifton.

Asked why he decided to get involved with the town board, Peterson says, "The then-chairman, Bob Clausen, talked me into it."

He went on further to say, "Someone has to do it, there's not a lot of people willing to do it.

"I've been around so long. I know what's going on."

Peterson's innate curiosity of what would happen next to his community has also kept him involved.

He thought about retiring last year, but Town Clerk Judy Clement Lee talked him into staying.

In the last 14 years, Peterson has also spent 12 years serving as a supervisor on the Pierce County board.

After being on the county board for a decade, he took a two-year break. But then he decided to run again so he could get out and see people within the county.

In addition to devoting himself to the betterment of the community he grew up in, Peterson has also worked as a farmer, a rural mail carrier and owned a trucking company.

He did alll this while also raising six kids.

With the help of his loving wife, Peterson was able to attend to all his commitments and still be there for his family.

He noted that Mary took calls about the town when he was unavailable. It was their teamwork that enabled him to serve the public for such a long time.

Throughout his years, Peterson has been the "go-to person" for the town. He receives calls day and night about animals, storm damage and road issues.

In recent years, Clifton has seen an influx of housing developments. While Peterson isn't a fan of such growth, he knows it's inevitable.

"I wanted to be involved as much I could and make sure developments were being done right," he says.

In its heyday about 35 new house permits were issued yearly but in recent years that number has averaged only about two.

Peterson doesn't like to see the loss of farmland but understands that Clifton is an ideal place for people to move to.

As with most towns, Clifton has not escaped the current recession. Peterson mentioned, "The income keeps going down, while costs such as road maintenance keep going up. It's tough to balance the books"

He went on to say, "People want more services, but with the budget it's been tough."

Road upkeep costs have been a challenge in recent years. Peterson credits a great clerk for helping keep the town's finances in balance.

Pierce County has also undergone many changes. The most recent being the increased permit requests for sand mining.

For Peterson, this is a major concern, but with his position on the board, at least he has a say in how it's handled.

None of the Peterson children have followed their father's town board legacy, but all have ties within the community and all live within 10 miles of him.

Many may remember that son Roger Peterson hosted Farm Technology Days in 2010.

With the bit of spare time he has, this grandfather of 15 enjoys trout fishing along the Kinnickinnic River.

As he looked out the window at his land, Peterson talked about a town that is very much ingrained in his heart.

He said, "Mary and I always planned on staying here the rest of our lives. She made it, I hope I do to."