Making the news in Tracy

Former Independent editor named Tracy’s Citizen of the Year

Photo by Deb Gau Per Peterson, former editor of the Marshall Independent and current editor of the Tracy Area Headlight Herald newspaper, was recently named Tracy’s Citizen of the Year.

Per Peterson thought he was on assignment, covering the community awards at the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet. He had no idea he was about to become part of the story.

“I was there with my camera strap on my shoulder,” Peterson said. “I was totally oblivious.”

But when Tracy Area Public Schools Superintendent Chad Anderson started introducing the final award winner of the evening, that changed.

“He started reading, and 10 seconds in I knew it was me,” Peterson said.

Peterson, former editor of the Marshall Independent and current editor and co-owner of the Tracy Area Headlight Herald newspaper, had just been scooped. He was named Tracy’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

On Saturday, the Tracy Area Chamber honored several outstanding community members, including the Citizen of the Year. Peterson said it was a “very humbling” experience to receive the award.

“This job is humbling, and then it’s humbling when the community really shows they appreciate and care about you,” he said.

At the banquet, Chamber members highlighted Peterson’s connection to Tracy and hard work covering local news. The speech naming Peterson as Citizen of the Year talked about how he’s at almost every single community event, from city council meetings to youth sports games.

“He grew up in Tracy and is sincerely interested in promoting all our town has to offer. He is a very good ambassador for our community,” said one nomination.

Peterson had seen plenty of past award ceremonies, but receiving the Citizen of the Year award was still an emotional moment.

“My family was there, which made me choke up a bit,” he said.

Peterson has had a long career in local journalism. Over 26 years, he had a variety of roles at the Independent. He started out working at the sports desk, before moving on to reporting, page design and editing.

“I loved it, I really did,” he said.

In 2017, Peterson shifted his focus back to Tracy, as he became editor of the Headlight Herald. Two years later, he and Tara Brandl bought the paper from longtime owners Jim Keul and Seth Schmidt.

“I knew I wanted to do it. How could I not?” Peterson said.

He said he was lucky to able to do something he loved for a living — but being able to do it in his hometown was an “insane” opportunity.

Being a newspaper editor, reporter and photographer in one is a lot of work.

“It’s 24/7 when you own a newspaper,” Peterson said. “I hit the ground running because I had to.”

He said he was used to the long hours of journalism, but at first it was “a little scary” to do more news reporting.

“I’m a sports guy,” he said.

It can also be daunting to write about people you’ve known your whole life — and who know you, he said. Writing about controversial stories is hard as well.

But Peterson said he loves the variety of stories he gets to cover.

“There’s not one morning I’ve woken up and said, ‘I don’t want to go to work today,'” Peterson said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today