Town leaders say Sidney Perry was the obvious choice to take on the role of interim town manager in Zebulon.
“The thing about Sidney is he has the experience (working) with the town, for I think 45 years, and had worked in various departments,” said Mayor Bob Matheny. “I think he’s well known by staff and the citizens and in being respected by both, it was the natural choice.”
Commissioners appointed Perry, the town’s former fire chief, to the position Nov. 7 after former Town Manager Rick Hardin resigned following his second arrest for allegedly driving while impaired in the past seven years.
Matheny said the town could have asked the N.C. League of Municipalities to source an interim manager. Perry’s track record in town closed the door on that option.
“They would have had to travel some distance to get here, and they wouldn’t have the knowledge of the Town of Zebulon like Sidney,” Matheny said.
While the duration of Perry’s interim role will depend on the hiring of a full-time manager, he’s in position to be at the helm as the town begins work on its budget for the next fiscal year.
After holding positions in the town’s fire, police and public works departments over the years, Perry says its almost like he was groomed for his new assignment.
“It certainly helps,” Perry said of his past experience with the town. “Each department head sits down with the manager and finance director as we start the budget and discusses their particular projects and needs. Having done that in the past (as a department head), it gives me some insight into dialogues between the manager and staff.”
He has no concerns about the town’s ability to form a spending plan under his watch.
“I don’t have any heartburn over the budget – I think we have the people in place that we can handle it,” Perry said. “Certainly with (Finance Director) Bobby Fitts and his expertise, I’m sure we can get through with it. The (town) board and the mayor, of course, go over it with a fine-toothed comb.”
Perry first began working with Zebulon in 1967 as an assistant public works director. He was an auxiliary policeman for 10 years and retired as fire chief in February, 2013. At one point he served as public safety director during a vacancy in the police department.
The part-time, interim role calls for Perry to work Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Perry said his first week was mostly meeting with department heads and getting up to speed on current town projects, and signing paperwork. He described his role as “basically holding down the fort” and dealing with any major issues that arise.
“Keeping progress going on projects and getting our goals done is my job,” Perry said. “It’s been important this week to get back in the groove with (staff) and catch up on what’s going on in town and what they hope to happen, and events and projects they have scheduled.”
The town waived its nepotism policy to hire Perry, whose son, Chris Perry, succeeded him as Zebulon’s fire chief.
Sidney Perry said he’s treating his son no different than the town’s five other department heads.
“He’s my son, but that doesn’t bother a thing,” Perry said. “He gets the same treatment that’s equal and fair, but no more or less than anybody else.”