Mark Peterson has had the same aspiration on his mind for years: lead the city of Winona as mayor.
He wanted to wait for the right time. And when Winona Mayor Jerry Miller announced his intent to retire earlier this year, Peterson knew his moment had come.
“I had no interest in running against Jerry Miller, because he has done a good job and I have a lot of respect for Jerry Miller,” Peterson said.
“I hope I can do as good of a job as he did,” he added.
Peterson, executive director of the Winona County Historical Society, said his first experience running for public office has so far been one thing he hoped — fun.
“When I started, I thought, if this isn’t fun, I don’t really want to do it,” Peterson said. “I have to say it’s been a lot of fun.”
Peterson, a political newcomer, said his knowledge of the community and involvement with local groups makes him qualified for the job.
“I’m not starting from a position where I’m an unknown by any means,” Peterson said. “I think people know me as somebody whose been involved in the community. I’ve been a leader in many ways.”
Originally from Mankato, Minn., Peterson moved to Winona with his family in 1983. He’s been active in a number of community organizations and groups, including the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, the Winona Convention and Visitors Bureau (now called Visit Winona), and the Chamber of Commerce centennial committee. In addition to his work at the historical society, he is an adjunct history professor at Winona State University.
Peterson said one of the most rewarding parts about campaigning has been the response from supporters — those waving signs at parades, students asking questions at a forum held at Winona Middle school and neighbors calling with supportive words.
“Those are sort of the feel-good moments that keep you knocking on doors,” Peterson said. “It’s hot out, and your feet hurt, but you just keep going because someone is excited you’re running and they believe in you.”
Peterson plans to spend election night at the Ground Round in Winona, where he’s hosting a party to gather friends, family, and volunteers by his side as the results come in.
“Win or lose, it’s been a great experience,” Peterson said.