The forester: Perkins would rather be outdoors
This particular June evening, Walter Perkins will be feasting on fresh cherries from his Crozet backyard. Given that he's a forester for MeadWestvaco, it should come as no surprise that he has his own mini-orchard.
His wife, Jo Ann, is in the kitchen pitting the cherries. She comes out to greet a visitor and warn that her husband isn't the talkative one in their marriage.
After 16 years on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Perkins has announced he won't seek another term. "I decided last year I wasn't going to run," he says. "I'm burnt out, and I have health problems."
He certainly won't miss BOS meetings or campaigning. While some politicians thrive on getting elected, "It was drudgery for me," Perkins says.
The best part of being a supe, he says, is being involved in the community and having some impact. The worst? "People demanding of your time and thinking you have the power to fix every little problem."
Jo Ann steps in from the kitchen to reminisce about when Perkins was first on the board and people called to complain about dogs, fences, and even marital problems. Now the calls are more about land use and growth issues.
Perkins wants to clear up one misperception. "I think anti-growthers probably think I'm in the pocket of developers. But there are rights that go with property. You have to look at the whole ball of wax and the comprehensive plan and where it fits in. Your vote should be based on the comprehensive plan and legal issues. Your vote shouldn't be based on whims."
There were times when Perkins, a fiscal conservative, was the only "nay" vote on a budget. And it was the budget and reassessments that generated the most calls from constituents.
The advantage to being a forester, says Perkins, is getting to be outdoors. And once out of public service and retired– he'll soon have 40 years with Westvaco, "and that's a long time," he observes– he wants to travel and manage some properties he owns. After all, "I'm a tree farmer," says Perkins.
Jo Ann chimes in that he found the largest pine tree in Virginia in Lousia, and that he's found rare sassafras trees.
She and Perkins met while he was in school at Virginia Tech, and 38 years of living in Crozet in the shadow of UVA hasn't affected his allegiance. Their three children went to Tech, and Perkins is still a Hokie all the way.
And for the record, he's a little disappointed with the ACC/Big East dust-up. "I think they should just leave things the way they are," he says.
What brought you here? Job
What's worst about living here? Attitude of some people.
Favorite hangout? My garden
Most overrated virtue? Can virtues be overrated?
What would people be surprised to know about you? I am a PK [preacher's kid].
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Better computer skills.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? 30 years of public service
What do people find most annoying about you? Not being vocal enough
Whom do you admire? Eisenhower and T. Roosevelt
Favorite book? Saint and Strangers by George F. Willison, a story about the Pilgrims. My ancestor came on the Mayflower.
What subject causes you to rant? Politics
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Medical and scientific advances
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The cost of those advances
What do you drive? Pickup truck
What's in your car CD/tape player right now? No CD or tape player
What's your next journey? To follow the trail of Lewis and Clark
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Caught by state police operating a motor vehicle without a license at age 14
What do you regret? Regrets, I had a few, but then again too few to mention
Favorite comfort food? Peanut butter and banana sandwich with mayo
What's always in your refrigerator? Ice cream
Must-see TV? History channel
Favorite cartoon? Roadrunner
Describe a perfect day. To be successful in my undertakings and to be happy every day
Walter Mitty fantasy? To own and operate a ranch in Montana
Who'd play you in the movie? Andy Griffith of Mayberry
Most embarrassing moment? Being an hour late for a BOS meeting
Best advice you ever got? Invest for the future: pay yourself.
Favorite bumper sticker? Re-elect Perkins