Someone says, "Can we fix it?"
Justin Peterson says, "Yes, we can."
Peterson is famous for his ingenious remodels. He started at The Herald as a freelance contractor, remodeling the dated bathrooms.
Former publisher Allen Funk and Kim Heltne, assistant to the publisher, both admired his ability to dig out old materials and furniture and repurpose it.
"He's not only a talented craftsman, he's a magician who specializes in making silk purses out of sows' ears," Heltne said.
"He can take a mangled piece of leftover material and turn it into a fine cabinet or a fully functional work station.
"His projects come in on time, under budget and always seem to exceed our expectations."
Those talents and attention to detail led to his permanent position as facilities supervisor in 2009.
Peterson enjoys remodeling work because of the creative element, but also because it gives him an opportunity to get to know his co-workers. He says he sees his co-workers as his clients.
"I see it as my job to make sure everyone is warm enough or cool enough and comfortable in as nice a work environment as possible," he said.
He has completed projects in most areas of the building and said he'll continue until he has hit every department.
While the remodeling projects are the most visible, other jobs have solved big problems for the paper.
Publisher David Dadisman appreciates his design genius and thrift.
"Justin finds or designs creative solutions on his tight maintenance budget -- he's one of the most creative people I know," Dadisman said. "The Herald dock elevation was too low for some of the larger trucks we load today, so Justin, pencil and paper in hand, designed a hydraulic dock extension and took the drawing to a local fabrication shop.
"No one had ever seen this type of extension before -- Justin created the whole thing and found the right people to build it here in Everett. The Herald's dock height hasn't been a problem for us since then."
Herald Controller Laura Damron, who is Peterson's supervisor, seconded that with another story.
"He's always looking for ways to improve things here at the company," Damron said, "from cosmetic issues such as the remodels that he's done all the way to higher-profile cost-saving issues such as his project with the PUD where he made some improvements and changes, which netted us a check in the neighborhood of $14,000."
Peterson himself plays it down. He says it's easy for him to come in and identify problems with fresh eyes.
He enjoys all aspects of his job. Besides the remodeling, he relishes the challenge of paying the bills and staying within budget, and is always looking for costs to cut. He even likes being on the forklift every week.
And he gives credit for the positive work atmosphere to his two co-workers in the facilities department, Jim Oczkewicz and Ryan Hansen.
"Jim and Ryan are really great," he said. "I couldn't do the job without Jim and Ryan."
Peterson recently sold some of The Herald's scrap metal. He proposed to Dadisman that instead of putting the proceeds into the general fund, he would like to put on a summer barbecue for the employees. Dadisman thought that sounded like a pretty good idea.
So on a sunny Thursday in the last week of July, Peterson and a cadre of hearty helpers could be found outside the maintenance building, barbecuing burgers for the whole Herald crew.
"In addition to his considerable skills in so many areas, he also grills a tasty hamburger," Heltne said. "His positive attitude and pride in workmanship are such a gift to this organization. The Herald is a better place because of Justin Peterson."
Each week, Here at the Herald provides an inside peek at the newspaper. Is there something you would like to know? Email executive editor Neal Pattison at email@example.com.
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