Courtesy photo
Panaca Elementary principal Pete Peterson.

Everyone knows Pete. He’s the guy you talk to if you need to make something fun or if your event needs a little something extra. When the Lincoln County High School homecoming royalty ride out onto the football field in a fancy extra-long golf cart, it’s because Pete Peterson purchased the behemoth and offered its services for the evening. When the kids at Panaca Elementary look in at the adorable baby chicks they’re taking care of, or enjoy their time working out in the greenhouse, it’s because Peterson, the school’s principal, went through the process of acquiring both. When there’s a play that needs to be directed or a grant that needs an application, people always point to Peterson.

This is not just conjecture; there have been multiple instances where, in a Lincoln County School District board meeting, a special project that required funding was brought up, and board members pointed to the man in the back of the room and said, “Talk to Pete.”

Peterson is known to most of the county as the principal of Panaca Elementary, but his story starts a bit to the north. He was born in Reno, Nevada, and grew up in Las Vegas. His elementary experience was not ideal; in fourth grade, he had a terrible experience that had long-lasting effects on him until his high-school graduation. While Peterson entered that grade as one of the smartest kids in his class, he graduated with some of the lowest grades. However, while his plan to stay out of school seemed to be ideal (he was making significantly more than the current minimum wage when he graduated), his parents convinced him to go to college and further his education.

That’s where he met Beverly. Only a year into Peterson’s college education, the two love-birds came into contact, and a year later they were hitched. Peterson continued to go to school, racking up three years of college before he found a job selling Snap-On tools. This position went well for a time, but when the tool business dried up in the eighties, he decided it was time to go back to school. Two years later, he had his degree, and the only thing in his way was needing a job opening.

Neldon C. Mathews, the superintendent at the time, flew to Cedar City to personally interview Peterson, which impressed the recent graduate. “He is an amazing man,” Peterson said.

After another interview, Pete began working at C.O. Bastian High School, where he stayed for 12 years. Of this time and his fellow employees, he said he “met some of the most wonderful people in my life.” After working as the vice principal of the high school and the English teacher at the middle school in Panaca, two jobs opened. Craig Babcock got the high school principal job, and Pete became the elementary school principal. Little did Pete know how much he would love his new job at the time, and to this day the school is adding new things for students and parents to participate in.

One of the biggest changes coming to the school is that it will be saying goodbye to current secretary Kylea Lytle. The old swing set was recently replaced with a newer, safer model, and the chicken and greenhouse projects are going well. The school plans on having a literacy night Jan. 27, where a speaker will give advice to each of the parents. A second literacy event will be held Feb. 27, celebrating the school’s $10,000 worth of new books. Refreshments will be served.

Peterson admits that he could not do this alone; people like Madylyn Kerr and Larissa Frehner have stepped up and volunteered to work in the library and with students, and numerous parents that have done the same. The Parent-Teacher Group is also very supportive of the school and its faculty, putting on wonderful events and making sure the kids have a good time. Peterson said, “The parents’ support at Panaca Elementary is the best it could be – the best in the state.”

Everybody knows Pete, and while he’s supported the community for years, it’s good to see that the community supports him as well.

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