Pete Peterson was born in New York City, spending much of his early childhood on Shelter Island on Long Island before his family moved to Sydney, Australia, when he was four years old. After living “Down Under” for several years his family moved back to the United States, where he continued his primary education in the small town of Gladstone, New Jersey. Peterson earned his BA in History from George Washington University, where he rowed on the crew team for four years. He later earned his Masters in Public Policy from Pepperdine University, and was a Public Policy Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Peterson later became the first Executive Director of Common Sense California, a bipartisan, nonprofit “think-and-do tank” devoted to improving civic participation throughout the state. In 2010 Common Sense California joined with the Davenport Institute at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University to become the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, where Peterson serves as Executive Director. He also co-created the seminar, “Public Engagement: The Vital Leadership Skill in Difficult Times,” which has been attended by over 500 public officials around the country. He has advised dozens of public engagement processes around California.
As Executive Director of the Davenport Institute, Peterson is a nationally-recognized trainer, speaker, and advisor on topics relating to increasing civic participation in government decision-making processes and explaining how technology is changing the citizen/government relationship. For the better part of a decade, Peterson has travelled throughout California with public officials to improve public processes on issues ranging from budgets to water policy.
Peterson has also advised several California cities on the use of online public engagement and data visualization platforms. Pete currently serves on the advisory committees to the Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement Program (League of California Cities), the California Civic Innovation Project, and the University Network for Collaborative Governance.
Pete currently teaches a masters’ class at Pepperdine University titled “Leadership through Public Engagement.” Preceding his work in public engagement, Peterson worked in the marketing/graphic communications industry for a dozen years, consulting with clients such as American Express and Kenneth Cole on projects ranging from online order systems to direct mail catalogues.
Pete lives in Santa Monica with his wife, Gina, and daughter, Elsa.