Described as a long-time politician, friend, mentor, and a gentle soul, Delaware County Treasurer Jon Peterson passed away unexpectedly Thursday.
“Jon truly was a Renaissance man with a huge heart who touched the lives of many — from the most powerful to the homeless, and he treated everyone the same,” said Delaware County Commissioner Barb Lewis in a statement issued by the county. “I will dearly miss his wisdom, wit, leadership, and friendship.”
In the statement from the Delaware County Board of Commissioners, it lists Peterson as “an extraordinary person and truly a public servant, serving the people of Delaware County and Ohio in a remarkable range of ways.”
Commissioner Gary Merrell said Peterson used the term “my friend” often.
“He was always a gentle soul, never judgmental, always thoughtful,” Merrell said. “His quiet strength will be missed.”
Commissioner Jeff Benton said he knew Peterson for “many decades” going back to their days at Hayes High School.
“I was fortunate to have been friends with Jon for many decades,” he said. “Jon did so much for Delaware, the community he loved. He served in so many ways, it would be hard to list them all – Delaware would not be the special place that it is today without his many contributions. Along with so many others, I will miss ‘my friend,’ Jon Peterson. And please remember Jon’s family during this time of great loss.”
Peterson leaves behind his wife, Melissa, and daughters, Emily and Hannah, who reside in Delaware.
Peterson was first elected treasurer in November of 2008, offering extensive experience in Ohio county government. While treasurer, he made the office more accessible to citizens by implementing real estate escrow payment plans and creating the option to pay taxes online.
Looking back over his public service career, Peterson served as deputy auditor of Franklin County from 1980-1984 before being appointed finance director of Franklin County in 1985, serving for two years.
Peterson was appointed as chief deputy auditor of Delaware County in January 1990 and elected county auditor in November 1990.
During his service as Delaware County auditor, Peterson implemented the county’s first automated financial management and payroll systems, the Delaware Auditor Land Information System (DALIS), which received national recognition for creative, innovative and efficient public applications.
From 1999 until 2009, Peterson served in the Ohio House of Representatives, where he advocated on the behalf of people with autism, mental illness, physical and developmental disabilities, and children facing food scarcity.
Peterson was a member of Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder’s (R-Glenford) leadership team from 2001-2004, serving as assistant Majority Whip.
Learning of Peterson’s passing, Householder issued the following statement:
“I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of Jon Peterson. He was a man of great heart who genuinely, sincerely cared about others. As a state representative, he wasn’t here just to change laws. He was here to change lives. That’s who Jon was. I was honored to have Jon serve as assistant Majority Whip. Whether as a state lawmaker or county official, as a pastor or a community leader, Jon Peterson showed compassion for those overlooked by society and gave voice to those who were not being heard. We’ve lost a good and special man who made our world a better place. Taundra and I are keeping Jon’s family in our prayers.”
State Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, added, “I can’t go somewhere dealing with disability or special needs issues without his name coming up as a strong advocate. It was a sad day, Ohio lost a great advocate. He was a really good man and a great mentor. He gave me great advice once. He said as a legislator, find something you are passionate about, focus on it, and become the expert.
“Lastly, he also said do something that matters and that helps others,” Brenner said.
For his work on behalf of Ohio citizens, the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program was (JPSN) enacted in the fall of 2012 and was the fourth voucher program created in Ohio. It gives the parents of children with disabilities the choice to send their child to special education programs other than the one operated by their school district to receive the education and services outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
“Jon Peterson was a servant leader,” said Steve Cuckler, Delaware County Board of Elections member and an attorney with Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister, LLP. “He always put others before himself, and this county is a great place to live in large part due to Jon. All of us are better because of him, and we need to continue his legacy of serving others.”
Peterson received his bachelor of arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University; a Master of Public Administration degree from Florida Atlantic University; Juris Doctorate from the Capital University Law School; and Master of Divinity degree from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He was also a retired pastor at Zion United Church of Christ.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.