By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region – After 20 years as a state representative, George N. ?Peterson, Jr., R-Grafton,? has decided to step down when his term ends next January.
Peterson, 63, the current assistant minority leader, represents the 9th Worcester district in central Massachusetts, which includes Grafton, Northbridge and Upton and prior to the legislative redistricting in 2012, also represented parts of Westborough.
Leaving the House of Representatives will be bittersweet, he conceded, but added that it was “time.”
“My family and I talked about this over the holidays and just decided this was a good time for me to step down,” he said. “My wife [Diana] and I want to spend more time with our family.”
Peterson has lived most of his life in Grafton, in the same house he grew up in, except for five years when he worked as a commercial fisherman in Gloucester. That experience served him well, he said, when working on issues surrounding the state's fishing industry.
He has also worked in other endeavors including owning a seafood business, working for tree companies and as a heavy equipment contractor. He also served five years on the Grafton Board of Selectmen and on the town's Planning Board.
As a state representative he has advocated for legislation to help businesses, economic development, and open space preservation. Last fall he was an outspoken critic of the “Tech Tax,” a controversial bill that would have charged 6.25 percent sales tax on certain computer and software services. That bill was ultimately repealed by Gov. Deval Patrick after an onslaught of protests.
Peterson and his wife of 40 years are parents to four children: Matthew, Jean, Mary and Erik.
Erik, Peterson noted, is a Navy helicopter pilot that will soon be deployed to “parts unknown.”
“We are nervous, but have a lot of faith in him and his abilities,” he added. “We'se very proud of him.”
Peterson said there were three main accomplishments he was most proud of accomplishing during his tenure as a legislator – ensuring that Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in his hometown of Grafton continued to receive a state stipend; working to ensure that local aid was returned back to the communities and not allotted elsewhere; and always making sure that he was available for his constituents when they needed help.
“I always tried to be accessible, be open and honest,” he said. “You might not always agree with me – and sometimes I can be blunt – but you always know where I stand on the issues.
Local Westborough leaders praised Peterson for his past support.
“Representative Peterson has done an excellent job representing Westborough and he was always available and worked on a number of legislative issues for the town ranging from state aid to obtaining additional liquor licenses and the Town Charter,” Town Manager Jim Malloy said.
“It's great that we'se had legislators on both sides of the aisle that have been able to work together to help the town.? George's experience and assistance will be missed.”
“George represented Westborough well over the years.? He was a strong leader and always was available to both the town and the other representatives that served Westborough alongside him,” Selectman Chair Ian Johnson added.? “While he didn’t reside in Westborough, he always treated us as if he did.”
Barbara Clifford, the president of the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce, also offered her praise.
“Working with Rep. George Peterson for the last 11 years has been a terrific experience for me! Rep. Peterson has never missed the Corridor Nine Chamber Legislative Breakfast each January and has done so much terrific work for our businesses and communities,” she said. “He will be missed by all of us and we wish him the very best!
Peterson said it is still too early to decide what will be next on his agenda when he steps down in January 2015. But definitely time spent with family will be a priority.
“My wife and I hope to rent an RV at some point and travel across the country,” he added, “and see what this great land has to offer.”