By Taylor Boyd
In his bid for the Smith River District seat on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Doug Perry said the most important challenge facing the county is a lack of leadership.
“I don’t think the county has had real leadership in the past 30 years,” Perry, 50, said in his uncontested race. “Leadership is to provide purpose, direction, and motivation. I’d also like to add guidance to that.”
Perry said for the county to provide leadership it needs at least five products it currently does not have.
The first is a vision.
“Collectively, the county has no vision. No one knows what they want the county to look like five years from now. If we don’t know what we want to look like, then how can we make a decision to cut this or cut that,” he said.
The county also must have goals and an evaluation process, according to Perry. He believes the county and its departments must develop goals to tackle as a whole instead of working in individual silos.
“We can talk about whatever, but if we can’t evaluate what we want to do, then we’ll never know if we’re on the right track or not. We’re just doing stuff to do stuff,” he said.
Sustainability also is needed to ensure any decisions made can be sustained in the long-term, Perry said.
“That way, it’s not something the county has to keep up. How does it grow, how does it multiply, how does it become self-sufficient,” he asked rhetorically.
Lasty, he believes the county must have a communication plan.
“When we pull up that county website, the first thing we should see is our vision, and we should have little tabs to be able to click on the goals and see where we stand on them,” Perry said, and added that he thinks two key concepts for providing these products are collective and holistic.
“We have to have all the agencies and departments buy in to these products so that we can be holistic. If everyone doesn’t have a buy in, then it’s just two or three people doing something, and we’re not going to be successful,” he said.
Perry said it’s impossible to make an adequate decision about anything without knowing where people want to be as a county.
“I think the hardest part is bringing everyone together, the community readiness, so that people are ready to come together to develop this vision and this goal,” he said.
Development of these concepts will cost the county nothing.
“If we want to hire somebody to come in and do it, fine. Then it’ll cost something, but I’ve been doing this for 10 years so I’m very qualified to facilitate a workshop to develop these plans,” he said, adding “it just takes people’s time.”
While noting the lack of leadership, Perry said residents make the county so amazing, particularly those in the school system.
“We’re one of the top performers in the state, nationally recognized. The teachers and staff within the schools – saying they go above and beyond is an understatement,” he said.
Perry has had the opportunity to witness this when he fills in as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at some of the schools. Several of the children in one school have nothing, a school nurse will take them to the team rooms to shower, give them clean clothes to wear, and wash their dirty clothes.
“Then the cafeteria staff, if there’s any food leftover that they legally don’t have to throw away, for these kids that’s their dinner for the night,” he said.
Perry has also seen changes in some of these students because many of them couldn’t last an entire day without causing a disruption at the start of the school year.
“Now, on occasion these kids are having episodes where they’re disrupting the whole class” but it’s gotten better, he said.
Perry supports public involvement and increased transparency because both concepts are vital components of the leadership plan.
“People have to be in the know, and we have to have their input,” he said.
Perry plans to hold a monthly town hall, with meetings held in different parts of the district. While he hasn’t discussed the idea yet with any of the fire or rescue departments, he hopes to hold these meetings in those buildings.
“They could do like a spaghetti dinner or a potato bar, so the community can come in. It would be a fundraiser for the fire department or the rescue squad, and then sit down in the town hall so that the community can be informed and give input on things going on,” Perry said. “Information communication is of the upmost importance.”
Perry is adamantly against the legalization of marijuana and believes it will harm the community mentally, physically, and financially.
He hopes his leadership experience as in the military will help earn the support of voters and aid him in his goals if elected.
“Over the past 10 years of working with communities all across the country and state in instructing these things, I feel I do have the skill set to at least make the attempt,” he said.
Perry currently works for the Patrick County Sheriff’s Department and is retired from the Army. He attended Patrick County High School and has over 31 years of military/law enforcement training.
He has been married to his wife, Linda, a homemaker, for 29 years. The couple have two children, daughter Sarah, a nurse in Richmond, and son, Jason, an associate producer at Virtual Job Shadow.
In his spare time, Perry enjoys hanging out in his backyard, grilling, and watching the sun set.