To those “in the know,” it comes as no surprise that Perry outlived its fame as a railroad stop. When the last train went through in the 1970s, the town took a hit. And it came back swinging. Now, when Mayor Jay Pattee introduces his hometown of 8,000, he recognizes first the humanity that enables the town to re-invent itself. “Welcome to Perry, where we embrace our heritage and celebrate our diversity,” Pattee says. “We have a great melding of cultures here. You see that in our restaurants, and in our community celebrations.” Indeed, the roster of boutique dining establishments reads like a world-food rendezvous. And, from June’s Latino Festival and the 4th of July Celebration, to November’s Art on the Prairie and the Lighted Christmas Parade, the city revels in its multi-cultural heritage.
The hub of historic buildings downtown has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. The beloved Hotel Pattee, the area surrounding the historic Carnegie Library Museum and a streetscape that includes a bocce ball court at Josh Davis Plaza, are just the start of the story. Business and industry thrive in Perry. Long-time resident Jay Pattee stepped into community service more than a decade ago. “A council member quit a year and a half before the end of the term, and I said I’d fill out that term,” Pattee says. “So now, eleven years later, here I still am.”
Many of those years, Pattee was a member of the council. He was elected mayor four years ago. “Two other people ran for mayor at the same time, so that was exciting,” Pattee says. “On the same ballot where I was elected mayor, we also passed the local option sale tax, which was a great win for the city of Perry.” It was a necessary win. The housing stock was devalued by the assessor a few years ago, and next year the commercial property tax voted in by the state will take another bite from the general fun. “We watch our pennies closely,” Pattee says. “We look for ways to make the most of what we have, and we’ve done pretty well at that.”
Pattee credits an active council and engaged citizens for Perry’s continuing growth and development. The city’s comprehensive plan for the next decade is based on input from residents at public meetings. “One thing that was hugely important is getting our recreation center parking lot redone,” Pattee says. “Construction on that begins soon; it should be finished before snow falls.” Citizens also stated an interest in environmental friendliness. “We’re putting in solar panels on a city building near the bike trail. That will provide electricity for that building and the bicycle co-op building,” Pattee says. The city is looking at development of a subdivision on gently rolling land.
“No storm sewers are necessary there, because water will drain back to the creek.” As well, there are plans for new development in downtown Perry. There will be plenty to celebrate when Hotel Pattee, following Perry’s footsteps, re-invents itself with re-opening in Fall of 2013.