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Senior Chief Cliff Perry (USCG Ret.) with grandson, Joseph Perry, at Coast Guard Basic Training Graduation, May 2010. Photo: Donna Baum


Cliff is fairly modest, but as the tale of his life emerges, a man who has spent a lifetime in service to his nation, his birthplace and to others takes shape.

He spent 22 years in the Coast Guard,

They do this by maintaining and servicing the approximately 600 buoys and channel markers, including 100 floating buoys, in the vast expanse of waters in the area—from the North Carolina-Virginia border to the south end of Ocracoke Island.

At the Wanchese Station, Chief Boatswain Mate Paul Bertram, who is

in charge of the operation, explains that the team’s area of responsibility encompasses five sounds—the Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, and Pamlico—plus seven prominent rivers that are branches for the Albemarle Sound, and numerous back bays and small tributaries on the western edge of the coast associated with the Pamlico Sound.

Bertram, who has 18 years of

retiring as a Senior Chief (an E8 rating in today’s military) and came back to Kitty Hawk with a simple goal in mind. “I wanted to fish,” he says. “My daddy and granddaddy were fishermen, and when I came home, that’s all I wanted to do.”

It wasn’t, however, that simple The kid who had joined the Coast

service in the Coast Guard, notes that his team does its work with just over a dozen people at the station. Floating equipment is a 55-foot boat, a 26-foot trailerable boat, and an 18-foot shallow water skiff.

The Coast Guard Air Station, Elizabeth City

Lt. Jon McCormick greeted me at the Air Station at Elizabeth City, home to about 340 personnel, and invited me to join a tour of several others. Regularly the Coast Guard Air Station provides tours of the facilities.




Guard Reserve at age 17 was now a man with a family who had sailed the world. The list of ports Cliff had visited reads like a Frommer’s tour of the world. “I was in England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Canary Islands,” he says. “Oh, and Jamaica and Bermuda.”

Those ports don’t include the tour of

duty in Alaska early in his career. It was a shock to a kid from Kitty Hawk who had never been farther than Norfolk, but he adjusted. “It’s really a community there,” he recalls.

He attended leadership school in

Groton, Connecticut—which may be a part of how he has been so successful over the years. “It was a good school,” he says.

Nonetheless, when Cliff retired he had visions of keeping alive the family tradition of fishing and letting the rest of the world take care of itself.

Except the rest of the world, or at By Kip Tabb

After 26 years of service—or 48 if we include his time served in the Coast Guard— Mayor Cliff Perry of Kitty Hawk will retire in November of this year.

least the town of Kitty Hawk, came to his doorstep.

In 1981 the town of Kitty Hawk petitioned to incorporate. “I signed not to incorporate,” Cliff says. “I signed against it.”

Four years later he attended his first

town council meeting and saw that he was going to have to keep going back if he wanted to know what was happening. He got on the planning board and sat on the commission for two years before he realized he wanted to do more. “Rather than make recommendations, I wanted to make decisions.”

In 1987 he ran for town council and

won. He has been on the Kitty Hawk Town Council ever since. “For 20 of that, I’ve been the mayor,” he remarks.

From the outset he understood there

were principles that had to be part of any successful government. “Our council serves as the elected representatives of the voters of the town of Kitty Hawk,” he says. “We don’t have any favorites. My best friend and the guy who didn’t vote for me have to be treated the same.”

It has been a second career, a career

almost spanning the history of Kitty Hawk as its own town. Although he does not discuss religion in public settings, Cliff is a deeply religious man, and it is his belief that there was a clear path to the journey he has taken. “I feel as though God told me to get involved,” he says. “He is the one who gave me the wisdom to do what I have done.”


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