Never forget where you came from

HHJ mag

While Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Senator David Perdue have served in political office for several years, one thing that never changes for them, as cousins, is never forgetting where they came from. In doing so, both agree that it has led them to blessings from their life lessons and family roots of meaningful, purposeful work.

Secretary Perdue was born at Doctor Gallemore’s Clinic in Downtown Perry and raised in Bonaire. He attended three elementary schools due to the county’s growth and rearranging of school districts, Westside Elementary, Lindsey Elementary, and C.B. Watson Elementary. He went on to Warner Robins Junior High and then graduated from Warner Robins High School.

Senator Perdue was born in Macon, Georgia and raised in Warner Robins. He attended Lindsey Elementary, Westside Elementary, Northside Junior High, and graduated from Northside High School. The two recall memories of growing up together.

“David and I grew up in that era of the glory years of the 1950s and 1960s where you did whatever it took,” Sec. Perdue said.

“Both of our mothers were longstanding teachers in the Houston County School System and had proper expectations of us. Our fathers had very high expectations of us as well. We would have good grades, but it was always, why couldn’t you do better? So we were always improving in a way that drove us in positive way to be the very best you could in all you did.”

“We come from a big extended family,” Sen. Perdue said. “No matter what, we always got together every chance we had. But I mainly would spend my summers with Sonny on his father’s farm. If you look in the Webster’s Dictionary for the definition of responsibility you will find a picture of Sonny. I remember watching Sonny at a really young age in the field working, and then straight from there he would put on his uniform to go to little league practice. The way we grew up and the principals we were embedded with at an early age gave us degree to never forget where we came from. And I think that’s really important with public service.”

Both Sec. Perdue and Sen. Perdue’s mothers retired after teaching for over 40 years at the Houston County School System. Sen. Perdue’s father was also a teacher, principal, and was the School Superintendent for several years. Sec. Perdue’s father operated a dairy and diversified row crop farm.

After graduating high school, Sec. Perdue went on to the University of Georgia where he graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He also served in the United States Air Force working his way to the rank of captain. Following his military service, he became a small business owner concentrating in agribusiness and transportation; those businesses have grown to include several locations across the southeast.

Sen. Perdue went on to Georgia Institute of Technology where he graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering. Later on he earned his second degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, a master’s in Operations Research. He served as an executive for leading international companies. As Senior Vice President of Asia Operations Research for Sara Lee, Perdue established the company’s first Asia headquarters, was President and CEO of the Reebok brand, was credited with revitalizing the athletic brand, and as Chairman and CEO of Dollar General, he oversaw the company’s expansion from 5,900 to 8,500 stores nationwide, creating thousands of quality jobs. While at Dollar General, he became heavily involved in literacy and served as Chairman of the National Commission on Literacy and Workforce Development.

Both never really thought about getting involved in the political world nor ever imagined serving on the national level together. Sec. Perdue said his first office of public service was on the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board.

“In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Houston County was growing by leaps and bounds,” Sec. Perdue said. “I was asked during that time if I would be interested in serving on the planning and zoning board. At first I was hesitant, but nonetheless, it was a great experience and the best example of learning to listen to people and hear passion about their homes. Then I decided to run for the state senate in 1990, to which I served 11 years, and then ran for governor in 2001. I served two terms as governor. It was a difficult time during the economy, but we remained focused and came out strong. Last year I was minding my business when President Trump called (he said laughing). But it has truly been an amazing experience thus far to serve as Secretary of Agriculture.”

As a two-term governor of Georgia, Sec. Perdue was credited with transforming a budget deficit into a surplus, dramatically increasing the student performance in public schools, and fostering an economic environment that allowed employers to flourish and manufacturers and agricultural producers to achieve record levels of exports. He reformed state budget priorities, helped Georgians create more than 200,000 new jobs, and promoted his home state around the world to attract new businesses.

Sen. Perdue never ran for any type of office until running for the United States Senate, where he was first elected in 2014.

“I called Sonny and drove up to his operation in Bonaire, when the seat in the Senate became open,” Sen. Perdue said. “ I told him he needed to consider running for senate, and that we need someone with the experience you have. Well, he told me he didn’t feel led to do so, but then he said I should consider running. The next thing Sonny told me stuck with me, he said, “I will tell you this, nobody knows what somebody else ought to do but you should think about this and pray about it.” I had been watching the budget since 2001. I had some major concerns about the debt. Three weeks later my wife Bonnie came to me and said running for the Senate was something she thought I needed to do. We were very blessed to get through the election.”

While Sec. Perdue and Sen. Perdue never thought about serving in politics they both have enjoyed serving their state and country.

“I knew David would do an amazing job in the Senate and still does,” Sec. Perdue said. “He still continues to advocate for things he came for. It’s a seductive place up here and you can get compromised really quickly. And I am just extremely proud of David holding true to his promises for the people of Georgia. We take these stewardships very seriously. We want to make our family proud and people proud of morale and ethical decisions we make for Georgia and the U.S.”

“I think that one of the blessings that we have is, it’s unusual to have two contemporary family members involved in different ways like this,” Sen. Perdue said. “I enjoyed watching Sonny work in the President’s cabinet. I watch how that leadership flows through that room, and how it benefits of our famers around the country. Life experiences are what we bring up here, but we also bring the humility. I see so many people here in this town who kind of lose sight of who they are and where they came from. Sonny and I attend Bible studies led by our different committees and it’s important. It keeps our feet on the ground and lets us know who is really in charge here.” 

By:  Kristin Moriarty
Source: At Home In Houston County