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Lundberg's friends, family, coworkers celebrate his 38-year career

TULALIP — It was the retirement party that Pete Lundberg hadn't wanted, but he was all smiles when family members, friends and colleagues joined him at the Mpulse Lounge of the Tulalip Resort Casino June 23, to commemorate the end of his 38 years in education.

Lundberg, the principal of Marysville Middle School since 1991, has been at the Marysville School District for 24 years, and MSD Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland admitted that he'd tried to talk Lundberg out of retiring, twice, but to no avail. Nyland characterized Lundberg as loyal to the school district and an excellent leader of teachers and students alike, before he presented Lundberg with a plaque that expressed "no doubt that you will pursue your passion for fishing in the same way that you approach education — with 'reel' leadership."

This plaque was not the only gift Lundberg received that evening, as he was also handed a blanket signed by fellow Marysville Middle School employees, a "money tree" consisting of a potted plant with $38 in bills tied to its branches, and letters of congratulations from the Association of Washington State Principals, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Former Marysville-Pilchuck High School Principal Darrell DeGross recalled hiring Lundberg as his assistant principal in 1985, "even though it seems like just yesterday," and he was quick to qualify it as "the best decision we made that year."

Many of the comments from Lundberg's colleagues echoed one another. M-PHS Assistant Principal Rob Lowry was Lundberg's assistant principal at Marysville Middle School for Lundberg's first 12 years there, while Quil Ceda Elementary Principal David McKellar first met Lundberg when Lundberg hired McKellar as his assistant principal six years ago. Lowry had already known Lundberg for a few years before they started working together, and he described Lundberg as someone who had established himself as "a respected principal and a person of character." Lowry's account of Lundberg, as an administrator who sought to "listen to all sides of an issue non-judgmentally" was echoed by McKellar, whose early experiences with Lundberg's approach of "not sweating the small stuff" included Lundberg's arbitration of a disagreement between McKellar and a parent.

"After we'd all spoken, Pete told the parent, 'Well, I'm sure Mr. McKellar would be happy to apologize to you,'" McKellar said. "After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I apologized, and when I talked with Pete about it later, he told me, 'The customer has to come first.' He always made sure that those who voiced complaints knew they'd been heard."

Lowry agreed with this assessment, and added that Lundberg earned trust from his staff and faculty by investing his trust in them in turn, in a "supportive culture" that encouraged experimentation and shied away from micromanaging.

Brian Levesque, a former day custodian at Marysville Middle School, and Carla Stuller, the head secretary at the school, were among those who coordinated Lundberg's retirement party. Both have known Lundberg for more than two decades, and both spoke glowingly of his concern for students above all else, as well as his accessibility to his employees and coworkers.

"You can say what you feel to him, even if it might not be what he wants to hear," Stuller said. "I'll miss his laughter, every day. He cleaned tables in the student center and picked up trash in the school parking lot. He took ownership of the entire building, and by doing so, encouraged all of us to do the same. Oh, and he told me, 'The Marysville Globe rocks,'" she laughed, referring to an earlier news story about Lundberg's retirement.

Levesque was chosen to persuade Lundberg to agree to a retirement party, because Lundberg's other friends believed that Levesque had the best chance of succeeding at it. Levesque shared amusing anecdotes about Lundberg's foibles, including the time that Lundberg expressed surprise when his car's brakes stopped working, weeks after the brake light had come on. In spite of his kidding, though, Levesque expressed a deep admiration for Lundberg's intelligence and accomplishments.

"He actually doesn't like all these awards," Levesque said. "He doesn't do what he does for accolades. It's just who he is. He's the best principal around, and he does it effortlessly. I know he'd rather be getting a root canal without novocain than having this party tonight," he laughed, "but I wanted to give him a send-off benefitting his career."

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