City bids fond farewell to finance director Peterson after 32 years of service

Phil Peterson, St. George's retiring finance director, speaking to a friend who is wishing him well in retirement, St. George, Utah, Jan. 29, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The St. George City Council Chamber was packed with city officials, city staff and others who gathered to bid farewell to Phil Peterson, the city’s retiring finance director.

Peterson’s retirement was announced by the City Council during its Jan. 8 meeting. The council and City Manager Gary Esplin thanked him for his 32 years of dedicated service to the city. Appreciation and thanks were also given to Peterson during his retirement party Thursday afternoon.

“I consider him one of the best hires I’ve ever been involved in,” Esplin said while addressing the gathered crowd. “His integrity is above reproach.”

Peterson said he joked that he wanted one of the first computers he used for work as a retirement gift. City staff made good on that request, to which Peterson laughed:“I wasn't serious, damn it!”, St. George, Utah, Jan. 29, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Peterson said he joked that he wanted one of the first computers he used for work as a retirement gift. City staff made good on that request, to which Peterson laughed:“I wasn’t serious, damn it!,” St. George, Utah, Jan. 29, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Originally hired as a city controller in 1982, Peterson eventually became the city’s finance director. Esplin previously stated he’s never had to worry about the city’s finances with Peterson around.

“It’s really because of Phil Peterson that the finances of St. George are in the shape they are,” Mayor Jon Pike said.

Reflecting on his service to the city, Esplin said Peterson put in more work hours than anyone else he knew.

“He did it because he wanted the best work he could do and he wanted to make sure the finances of the city were accountable and that everything was done appropriately,” Esplin said. “Whatever amount of time it took to do, he did it … I’m indebted to him for that.”

Though the city staff will be able to consult with Peterson on occasion, his departure leaves a gap the city is attempting to fill with the creation of a new city department and restructuring of staff, said Diana Brklacich, head of the city’s newly-created Administrative Services Department.

“We’re going to need that foundation and extra resources, and combining of those resources, now that Phil is not going to be here, because he’s taking a lot of institutional knowledge with him that can’t be replaced,” she said.

Brklacich was hired by Peterson nearly 20 years ago and has worked with him ever since. “He’s the person I went to for information, for guidance, and for advice. He’s an incredible person who gave his heart and soul to the city.” she said, adding Peterson was also there for city employees when they simply needed someone to talk to. “He’s a giant among men,” she said.

Like anyone who is the focus of a retirement party, Peterson wasn’t going to get away without sharing a few words with those gathered to bid him a fond farewell.

“This entire city has helped me through many personal crises of my own,” Peterson said, choking up as he spoke. “You’re been there for me and listened to me … From the bottom my heart, I love each and everyone one of you. This city – our citizens – have no idea of the quality of people that are here. We have top notch employees. Thank you for being such great people, to the city.”

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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