Activist Rottweiler Jeanie Peterson leaves Hilltop group post
After 18 years, Jeanie Peterson has stepped down from the Hilltop Action Coalition.
Her resignation from the unpaid position as director of community initiatives comes at a time when the coalition is changing its focus, Peterson said.
“I’m more like a Rottweiler, and some of the stuff they’re working on is more like a golden retriever,” she said. “There’s still enough Rottweiler things to do.”
Her departure July 17 came two days after Jim Price, board president of the Hilltop Action Coalition, sent a letter to “Hilltop Stakeholders” to address a recent controversy over a rumored group home for sex offenders.
The home in the 1600 block of South Grant Street near Stanley Elementary School is owned by Richard Garrett, a prison minister who disputes allegations that he is planning to house Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders.
In the July 15 letter, Price sought to distance the coalition’s board from the actions of a neighborhood group – the Stanley block group – that opposes the home. Peterson, a member of the Stanley group, has helped lead the fight against Garrett.
“While HAC board members and individual block leaders have a variety of opinions and approaches to addressing community issues, no one individual has the authority to use the credibility, reputation or resources of HAC unless a quorum of the board takes a vote and approves,” the letter stated.
Price said in an interview Monday that the board had not authorized the use of the coalition’s brand by the Stanley group.
“(That’s) not how we wanted to do business,” Price said.
He said the situation with the house was a “catalyst” for Peterson’s departure, but that the board had not pressured her to resign. He confirmed that the board is seeking a different approach in general to Hilltop issues, one of collaboration and conversation.
“That’s just not where Jeanie’s heart is,” Price said.
Peterson may have left the coalition, but she isn’t leaving the Hilltop. She hopes she’ll have more time to work on issues she finds important, including sex offender housing.
She said that she had to limit her personal views when she was a public figure with the Hilltop Action Coalition. Now, she represents “just Jeanie Peterson” and she can focus on the issues she wants to work on, she said. Peterson said she will continue to participate in the Central Neighborhood Council and Tidal Wave of Change, a joint effort by the Hilltop coalition and the City of Tacoma.
Peterson is best known for patrolling the Hilltop barefoot in an effort to overcome gangs, prostitution and drug activity. She moved to the neighborhood in 1993, back when it had a deservedly rough reputation.
“She went through the really, really, really bad times,” Price said.
Peterson said the Hilltop coalition’s new focus on the positive developments in the neighborhood is welcome, but not her style.
“When you’re a Rottweiler, you’re a Rottweiler,” Peterson said. “… If anybody wants my advice … I certainly will be around for that.”