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Mayor Alan Perry: Ensuring the Legacy Continues

by | May 8, 2024

Mayor Alan Perry serves as a BCEDC board member, representing the Town of Hilton Head Island. His dedication to economic development stems from being a long-time resident of Hilton Head Island. Alan Perry’s early years were spent in Charlottesville, Virginia until 1972 when his family moved to Hilton Head Island.

As the story goes, “My dad and uncle were driving from Florida to Virginia after a convention in 1967. And my uncle said, ‘Hey, I heard about this little island off of I-95 that has great golf.’ They stopped, and my dad fell in love with it. Our family started vacationing here during the summers beginning in 1968,” said Perry.

The family ultimately moved to Hilton Head because Perry’s father was traveling a lot and needed a different life to spend more time with his family. His father bought a printing company on the island, where Perry worked until 2001, when he left to go into the mortgage business.

Fast forward years later, Alan Perry stepped into the role of Hilton Head Island mayor just over a year ago. Before becoming an elected official, Perry gained experience with local government by serving on the Town’s Planning Commission, which focused on land use, zoning changes, capital improvement projects and other public initiatives. He has also been involved extensively with many community organizations including the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which he chaired previously, People for Parks, the RBC Heritage Classic, and the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association.

Mayor Perry has quickly discovered that the job of mayor is not part-time. “I give as much time as needed. There are moments during the day when I’ve got some free time, and I can work in my mortgage business. As mayor, I spend most nights studying and reading. It is around the clock. It can be challenging from time to time, but I love it all,” said Perry.

Balancing the evolving growth with protecting and preserving the natural environment continues to be a priority for Mayor Perry, Town Manager Marc Orlando, and Town Council. In the inaugural 2023 Town of Hilton Head Island Annual Report, several other community goals were highlighted, including:

  • Manage evolving growth while maintaining the island’s unique aesthetic.
  • Provide exceptional quality of life offerings in arts, culture, and recreation with best-in-class facilities and programming.
  • Develop creative revenue sources to fund capital services, maintenance, operations, and projects meeting the needs of residents and visitors.
  • Foster a healthy, self-sustaining community that encourages economic, cultural, and demographic diversity.
  • View the region as a partner, not a competitor.

Mayor Perry and the other Lowcountry mayors and town managers meet quarterly because they all have a vested interest in the region. Each town has their own issues and concerns based on geography; however, the one thing that is affecting everyone is growth.

“We look at growth and talk about what it will be like five to 30 years from now. We as leadership want to make certain that we’re growing in accordance with the needs of the area. Not trying to outpace it, not trying to over grow. Whether it’s redevelopment or new development, we want to make certain it fits within our respective towns. Beaufort has the historic side, Bluffton has the May River, Port Royal and Hardeeville both have tremendous new development coming in, and we have the spectacular golf courses and the beaches,” said Perry. “With reference to our beaches – accessibility, cleanliness and safety are of utmost importance.”

To protect and preserve the green space on the island, the town has proactively purchased over 1,600 acres over the years. Mayor Perry believes that it is critical that the public understand what the land acquisition program means to daily life and quality of life. “It means a reduction in 4.65 million square feet of commercial space development, a reduction of 1,460 motel rooms, 4,787 residential and timeshare units, and 43,897pm peak hour driving trips,” he said. “In addition, we are looking at additional properties to acquire to continue that trend.”

On the economic development front, Hilton Head has worked to diversify its economy for a long time. The hospitality and real estate side of the economy is good, but Perry hopes the town can add to that and bring in more solid businesses that are year-round and will help the general population.

“We need engineering, technology, financial services, and professional development types of businesses to move here, which I believe would help bring in a younger generation to the island. One of my goals is to lower the median age on the island, which is now 58, by one year!” Perry chuckled.

As the town continues to attract more business and service the robust hospitality industry, efforts to create affordable housing remain a priority for the mayor and town council. According to the 2023 annual report: a Chief Housing Officer has been hired. $3.3 million has been committed to a new housing fund, the Northpoint Public-Private Partnership Housing Advisory Committee was created, a new appointed the Housing Action Committee is now in place and the town participates in Beaufort Jasper Housing Trust with an FY24 contribution of $86,559.

With its 40,000 residents and over 3 million visitors every year, Hilton Head Island remains on the right track to make sure that it keeps moving forward, without compromising the ideals, history, and natural beauty that the island is known for. When asked where he would most like to be on the island, Mayor Perry quickly responded, “I love being at our many festivals. I also love the summertime when I can just escape on the water and just chill on my fishing boat. My wife and I will go out on the water, relax, take in the beauty that surrounds us and just breathe!”

Mayor Alan Perry shares the latest economic development updates for the Town of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina as part of the CONVERGE 2024 Lowcountry Economic Development Summit.