Jeff Peterson took care of Steamboat’s water for 37 years |

Jeff Peterson took care of Steamboat’s water for 37 years

Water is life in Steamboat

Jeff Peterson celebrated his retirement Sept. 9 as operations manager and plant superintendent of Mount Werner Water and Sanitation with grandson Oliver and wife, Jody.

After taking care of Steamboat's water supply for 37 years, both municipal water and the area's many trout streams, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation Operations and Plant Manager Jeff Peterson has retired to spend more time with the latter.

"Jeff has always been dependable and honest," Water District General Manager Frank Alfone said during a Sept. 8 retirement party for Peterson. "To work for the same company for 37 years and be there every day, and sometimes nights and weekend, is monumental."

Peterson first waded into his new role at the water district in 1980.

Just to put that into perspective, in 1980, the restaurant at the corner of Sixth and Lincoln, now known as the Old Town Pub, was then The Cameo. And 1980 was the year house painter Alan Barbee spent 50 hours in a bath tub full of pudding on the Cameo sundeck in order to raise money for the Steamboat Repertory Theater and Horizons Adult Services.

That was also the year the city of Steamboat Springs abandoned the original steep path of Mount Werner Road and built Mount Werner Circle. In that same year, the expansion of the original Village Inn at the base of the Steamboat gondola was being transformed into a modern Sheraton Hotel complete with a large conference center.

The Ranch at Steamboat condominiums were being framed on the north side of Storm Meadows Drive that same summer, and the Moraine condominiums were under construction in Fairway Meadows off Steamboat Boulevard.

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It was an era when the demands on Steamboat's domestic water supply were growing.

Longtime colleague Greg "Birkie" Burkholder told a story about how seriously his friend Peterson took the wintertime chore of keeping Steamboat's fire hydrants from being buried by abundant snowfall.

"One year, I asked him if I could go home (to Oil City, Pennsylvania) for Christmas," Burkholder recalled. He gave me the time off, "and I can remember flying back to Steamboat from Denver on the (DeHavilland Otter) into Bob Adams Field. The snow on the side of the runway was almost as high as the plane's wings. Jeff came out onto the field to meet my plane with a scoop snow shovel in his hand, and he said, 'Get to work. Every fire hydrant in town is buried. You need to get on with it.'"

Peterson also served the community with his passion for stream conservation work.

"Jeff saw the coming need for an organization like Yampa Valley Fly Fishers (which has since become a chapter of Trout Unlimited," longtime fried Bill Chace said at Peterson's retirement party. "He single-handedly took that on – he was level and patient. And he showed great humility in everything he did."

By 1983, Peterson and many members of the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers would collaborate with the U.S. Forest Service to improve trout habitat in King Solomon Creek — the first of many such projects made possible in part by sweat equity and fundraising.

Peterson confesses he often woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the worrisome details of his job, and he wasn't comfortable taking a personal vacation of more than a week. But that's all changed now.

Next up for Peterson and his wife, Jody, is a three-week camping trip through Wyoming, Idaho and all the way to the Oregon coast with plenty of trout streams between here and there.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.