After a long and fulfilling career in public policy, grassroots organizing and law, Pepco Holdings executive Beverly L. Perry is ready for retirement.
Perry lobbied for the Energy Policy Act on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and helped to raise funding for the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. On July 1, she will retire from her position as Senior Vice President of Government Affairs of mid-Atlantic energy company Pepco Holdings, but she hasn’t quite figured out what is next on her agenda.
“I want to take some time and explore my options,” Perry told the AFRO in a recent interview. “I want to play golf and travel. Maybe I will write a book.”
Perry said she also hopes to utilize the skills she has acquired over her career to continue to work in government and community engagement.
Perry, 66, grew up in rural Franklinton, N.C. Her family owned a tobacco farm and worked as independent sharecroppers. As a child, Perry worked alongside her parents and three other siblings on the family farm. She was the third oldest.
“It was hard work. We had to work very, very hard and I knew I didn’t want that kind of career,” said Perry. “But one thing I learned from farm work—because you get to see the physical product of your labor—if you work hard and treat what you do with care, you get a better product.”
She said this idea was instilled in her at a young age, and she took it with her when she moved to Washington, D.C. in 1968. Perry met a man from the district and, at the age of 20, moved to north to marry him. She divorced nine years later.
She worked fulltime as a law clerk for the department of justice while she attended George Washington University pursuing an undergraduate degree in sociology. Midway into her studies, she had a son, Kevin, and took a year off of college.
Michele Rollins, a noted attorney in the district and nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives, encouraged Perry to finish her undergraduate degree and go to law school. Perry graduated George Washington in 1976 and received her law degree from Georgetown University in 1981.
While pursuing her degrees, Perry had moved up the ranks at the justice department, working as a researcher, paralegal and then lawyer. In 1986 she got a job working as a lawyer for Frank, Bernstein, Conaway and Goldman practicing commercial litigation.
“It was my first exposure to big businesses,” said Perry. “Most of our largest clients were banks.”
During her four years working for the law firm, Perry said she consistently felt a pull towards a more public-service-related job.
“I kept being reminded of the commitment I made to Georgetown in my interview and personal statement to be a public servant,” said Perry.
At the time she was also working as the president for the Hillcrest Heights Community Association in Maryland, where she lived at the time.
“I thought, government relations work was really the same as the community work I was doing for the neighborhood association,” said Perry.
In 1990, Perry came to Pepco Holdings, then Potomac Electric Power Company, as Manager of Government Relations for the District of Columbia and Federal Affairs. She worked as a lobbyist for Pepco for the D.C. Council and on Capitol Hill.
“I worked on the Energy Policy Act, which was being debated on Capitol Hill. It was a critical time in the industry and I helped to get an amendment on the bill,” said Perry.
She rose through the ranks at Pepco moving onto general manager, vice president and then senior vice president of governmental affairs for Pepco.
Perry said she has had a slew of mentors over the years that pushed her towards success including Michele Rollins; Judge Marian Blank Horn of the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals; Joe Rigby, chairman, president chief executive officer of Pepco and Bill Ferguson to name a few.
“I learned by working in the community that as an advocate, you have to show a commitment to the greater community,” said Perry.