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Bayside intern works his way up to fellowship

Village fills position, honors longtime resident Lester Maresh

May 30, 2012

Bayside - A simple phone call opened the door for Michael Pedersen in Bayside. His work ethic has moved him from unpaid intern to a position as the first Lester Maresh Fellow.

Pedersen graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but he didn't start his post college work in the village. He went to Seattle where he juggled an internship at the Puget Sound Regional Council and a full-time job with a company called Zipcar.

With an undergraduate degree in urban planning and geography, he soon realized he would need an advanced degree to secure a paying job in urban planning. When the council hired a planner with a master's degree and nine years experience for an entry level job, he packed his bags and headed back to Milwaukee to go to graduate school.

"In Seattle, I saw I needed the master's," he said. "I don't know if I would have gone to graduate school so soon otherwise."

While at the council, Pedersen, 27, worked on a transportation plan, meeting a man named John Starboard who suggested he contact Village Manager Andy Pederson when he came back to Milwaukee.

What's in a name?

A brief lesson in pronunciation is needed at this point to ease confusion. Pedersen is "Ped" as in pedal, Pederson is pronounced with a long first e.

"I wanted to pick his brain, see how he got here (to the manager's job)," Pedersen said.

After that meeting, Pederson offered him an unpaid internship at Village Hall. Pedersen started in August 2011.

He was soon working 30 hours a week without pay, soaking up all he could learn. By the first of the year Pederson was able to fund a full-time internship through village budget and the Wisconsin City/County Management Association.

He worked on the social media sites for the village and enjoyed full freedom to ask questions and learn about how the village operates, who does what.

In the meantime, he applied for graduate school and was accepted for a dual master's program that leads to degrees in public administration and urban planning.

"I originally thought I would do just urban planning but after I was here, I decided to do both," he said.

Position created

His latest bump up, from intern to Lester Maresh Fellow, came when Pederson reorganized village staff after the departure of another employee. That was coupled with the desire on the part of village leaders to honor Lester Maresh, who served the community for 60 years in a variety of roles including village trustee and Plan Commission member. Maresh first moved into the community in 1952, and was elected to the Village Board on April 4, 1957. He was elected and served as village president from 1969-1972.

"(Village President) Sam (Dickman) wanted to do something to honor Lester," Pederson said.

It was not a given, however, that intern Pedersen would become Fellow Pedersen. The fellowship will last a year but could be extended. The village advertised the position, with staff interviewing five applicants by phone, and Pederson interviewing the final three.

"We kept an open mind throughout the process," Pederson said. "Mike did well and we know his work. His life experience has made him a really grounded person and he fits in well here."

Pedersen, who completed his first semester in his masters program, likens the Fellowship to a position between an internship and an assistant manager. He's doing ride-alongs with the Police Department, working with the Department of Public Works, handling questions and comments from people who call or walk up to the counter at Village Hall.

After a busy first semester handling his duties at Village Hall and 12 credits (nine is full load in graduate school), he is taking the summer off, at least from school.

He owns a Harley and plans to ride and enjoy the company of his girlfriend, his dog and family who live in the area.

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