Joanne Peters Celebrates Retirement

Joanne Peters Celebrates Retirement

Joanne Peters Celebrates Retirement

After 32 years of service to the entire City of Rochelle and Rochelle Municipal Utilities, Joanne Peters is celebrating retirement. She and husband Tom Peters will retire on the same day this month.

In the summer of 1986 Peters was a stay-at-home mom to her third and fifth grade daughters when she saw the advertisement in the local paper for a Dispatcher. There were two openings and out of 75 applicants, she and now-retired Police Officer Dave Christopherson were hired by Chief Winston Brass. Though the position was posted in June, her first official day of work did not happen until October since the entire Police Force was engaged in the Swift strike. At the time, the Department only had two Dispatchers who were each working 12-hour shifts, seven days per week.

Joanne began her time with the City as a Dispatcher working second shift for the first two and a half years of her career. Every report was typed on carbon paper using a typewriter. Then came the computer.
“I wanted to learn everything about the computer,” said Peters. She came in two hours before her shift each day just to learn the new machine. What followed were even more projects and soon a promotion to Clerk, where she assisted Chief Brass’ secretary and served as backup for Dispatch. Soon thereafter, she became the Chief’s Secretary.

Following Chief Brass’ retirement, the City hired Al Gorr who brought E-911 into the Department, which brought 911 services to a completely computerized system.

“Chief Gore was big on training,” she recalled. “Since I was one of just two females in the Department, I was trained to interact with the female suspects. I conducted searches, went on calls to make arrests, and transported female prisoners.”

Following her time as Clerk, she was promoted to Administrative Commander, charged with assisting the Chief and overseeing Dispatch.

As changes were happening in the City Manager’s Office and Chief Gorr was moving into retirement, a position became available in the Utility Office.

“After fifteen years at the Police Department, I was ready for a change. The City is an excellent employer and I grew a lot in those fifteen years,” said Peters.

Joanne’s time in Utility Accounting was short-lived when Utility Director Ken Alberts called on her to fill in for his assistant. Ten days later, she was filling that seat full time.  “Mr. Alberts said, “The chair fits””, she recalled. “Then we went running.”

Working for Alberts was exciting and the Utility office was much like learning a new language. Peters served as the liaison between the Utility Director and each department head including Kathy Cooper, Joe Orlikowski, Bob Rogde, Jim Volkert and Sue Messer.
As Mr. Alberts transitioned to the role of City Manager, Peters spent a brief time as Customer Service Supervisor but was happy to return to the Assistant to the Utility Director role for Gary Larsen and Ed Carr.

In 2014, she moved back to the building where it all started and took a position as Staff Liaison inside City Hall. One of the first projects assigned to her was the Certificate of Achievement in Government Financial Reporting (CAFR). The City received the award for the first time then and has continued to do so each subsequent year. She also spent time assisting the Economic Development Office.

“Joanne has knowledge of every single City department which is impossible to replace. She put together the annual Budget presentation, the Capital Improvement Plan, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report documents, and so much more,” said City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh.
Joanne has literally served every single City Department. She spent time in the Electric and Water Departments with filing and reporting; dispatched Police, Fire and Streets vehicles; has covered the City Hall front desk; coordinated bid openings and projects at the Diesel Plant; organized health fairs, employee appreciation events and groundbreakings; served brats at the Heritage Festival to raise funds for the Police Department; participated in the Torch Run; organized the RMU table at the Christmas Tree Festival; taken minutes for a multitude of City meetings; and served as a Notary Public.

“Joanne is a consummate professional. Her institutional knowledge, talent in assisting with a wide variety of projects and collaborative spirit is irreplaceable and will be missed,” said Assistant to the City Manager and longtime colleague Sue Messer.

When asked what her most memorable time with the City has been she noted that there are several calls from the Police Department that she will never forget.   “I’ve been given the opportunity to work in so many areas. I have a different perspective from having seen the City from so many different angles. The City is a good employer and I am proud to have been a part of it.”

Joanne will miss her co-workers the most, especially the women at City Hall. “Embrace change,” is her advice to newcomers. As her grandson Jake Peters is fulfilling an internship with the City’s Administrative Services Department, she is excited to see the torch passed to the next generation.