Nancy Fisher | 24th Street
Dan Peters. Photo Nancy Fisher
On a list of “thankless” jobs, it’s easy to imagine being first responder to a sewer overflow among them, but that’s not how Dan Peters sees it. The 18-year veteran of Del Mar’s Public Works Department is regarded by residents as someone who responds to situations, no matter how challenging, with his sense of humor intact. “How can you feel any other way,” he explains, “when you get to do your job in shorts right by the river?”
And the occasional sewer overflow, he adds, is more than outweighed by the days he gets to spend fixing a bench or otherwise maintaining Seagrove Park. “I just told a new kid with the department that somebody else is digging a ditch in El Cajon while we’re watching whales go by. This is the best job there is.” **
Dan, a fifth-generation native of Old Town, now lives in Clairemont with his wife of forty-three years, Arline. They have a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren, with four more grandchildren on the way. “It’s complicated,” he says, “my daughter is marrying her childhood sweetheart, who has four kids, so we’ll be doubling the grandchildren!” He’s clearly proud of his Old Town heritage and points out that his mother’s great-great uncle, Albert Smith, raised the first American flag there under fire during the U.S. – Mexican War.
Before joining the department, Dan was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force serving as an aircraft mechanic and tow reel operator, and also trained pilots headed to Viet Nam. His military service was followed by twenty-four years in the construction industry.
When asked what a typical day at Public Works is like, Dan says you never know. “You might show up and go out to fill some potholes, and then twenty minutes later something happens and you drop everything to respond.”
And do the residents appreciate what his crew does for the community? “Yes, they do,” he quickly answers. “One lady, who we call ‘Del Mar Nana’ even brings us cookies a few days after we do something nice for her.”
** With apologies to the City and people of El Cajon, who we know have lots more to offer than ditches.