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Chatting with the clerk of the courts
Dave Peterson has been at the helm of the Kitsap County Clerk’s office for about eight years.
He said his staff of roughly 40 men and women make the Kitsap County office one of the friendliest and most helpful around.
Born in Iowa, Peterson moved to Kitsap County in 1958 and graduated from South Kitsap High School in 1961.
Peterson worked for the Central Kitsap School District in various capacities for years. In fact, education runs in the family because his wife, Carolyn, taught for 34 years, retiring as a second-grade teacher at Jackson Park Elementary School in Bremerton.
Peterson, Carolyn and their 15-year-old cat, Buttons, recently moved to downtown Bremerton and they couldn’t be happier.
“It’s very nice. Bremerton is coming back. I can remember going Christmas shopping in Bremerton as a kid. It’s nice to see it coming back,” he said. “It’s nice to have a good, vibrant town. I think the mayor and city council are doing a great job.”
Peterson recently invited us into his office at the Kitsap County courthouse in Port Orchard to chat about his duties as county clerk, community involvement and his 33 years in the education field.
Question: How did you get started as county clerk?
Answer: The clerk that was in this office before was offered a job (elsewhere) and the state democrats named three people (to replace him) and I was one of the three names to be submitted.
Q: What is your role as county clerk?
A: It’s not a hands-on position like where I’m in court. It’s really an administrative position with a lot of budgeting. I felt I had a good background in that. I’ve always been involved in government and politics.
Q: What is your goal for the county clerk’s office?
A: My goal here is to make this an office that is really very friendly and that’s what we do. You talk to any attorney and they’ll say this is the nicest and friendliest clerk’s office in the area. Anything that we have something to do with we try to do a good job with doing that.
Q: What is your definition of what the clerk’s office does?
A: An easy way to remember the difference between the clerk’s office and the auditor’s office is the auditor’s office does the fun things. The auditor’s office does marriage licenses and auto licenses, but when you want to file a lawsuit against a neighbor or get a divorce, you go to the clerk’s office. We get the bigger crimes like homicides and burglaries because we are the official record keeper of the Superior Court. We have to keep those records forever.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
A: Right now a typical day is worrying about the budget. We’re in round four of cuts. I meet with personnel a lot. I go to lots of meetings. I’m in several of those a day. We also handle public defense. We’re the only county in the state of Washington that handles public defense in the clerk’s office, so I meet with them occasionally. There’s just so many things that arise during the day.
Q: What do you like the most about your job? The least?
A: I like the fact that we run a real good efficient office here. I think we do a real good job of tending to what people need. The court system is real mysterious to many people. We try the best we can to be helpful.
The least favorite probably is responding to someone who thinks if they yell at us or abuse us that we’ll want to help them faster. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes they’ll write stuff across their jury summons they’d be ashamed for their mothers to read. But most people that come in to the clerk’s office are nice, it’s just the very few who come in and yell at the staff.
Q: How did you get involved with teaching?
A: After graduating from college, I moved to Southern California to race motorcycles and teach. I taught English and history, then came back to Central Kitsap High School and taught government and anthropology. I was an assistant librarian for a while and then I took over libraries and centralized processing for the district. Then I retired in June 1998.
I didn’t think I’d be in teaching for a very long time, but I was in education for 33 years and it was a good thing. I still have students come up and say hi and they enjoyed my class. It’s a good thing. You can really make a difference.
Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?
A: I like to go trout fishing and I like to read. I’m into coin collecting. I have an antique Winchester action rifle collection too. I like gardening, those kinds of things.
Q: Are you or were you involved in any community organizations?
A: I was in United Way. I was on the United Way board for several years. I was a charter member of the Central Kitsap Kiwanis. Although I haven’t been attending meetings too regularly anymore. I was on Central Kitsap Community Council for nine years. I was one of the original members and I was the first president of that group.
Q: What is something you’d like to try in your lifetime?
A: I’d like to try a hot air balloon ride sometime because I think that’d be kind of cool. I’d like to try living outside the United States for short periods of time. I like the Caribbean and Italy, except they just had an earthquake.
Q: Your term as county clerk expires in 2010, do you plan to run for re-election?
A: Without making an announcement, I do plan to run again. I really enjoy what I’m doing and would like to run again.