The St. Charles Parish Council unanimously confirmed Ron Perry as the parish’s new director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Since 1982, Perry has worked as the emergency planning coordinator for Entergy’s Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant in Killona. He served as the governmental affairs point of contact, was in charge of nuclear emergency preparedness, supervised outages and even served as an expert witness for the U.S. Atomic Safety & Licensing Board.
Perry, a longtime Norco resident, called his new position his "dream job" due to a relationship he began with the parish’s first emergency preparedness director, John "Ikey" Lucas.
"When I started working here, I was hired to assist St. Charles with entering the nuclear age," Perry said. "John "Ikey" Lucas and I became very close. I always envisioned returning to public service at the end of my career and this is a natural fit."
Perry said his new job is very similar to the one he has held at Waterford 3 for three decades.
"A lot of my work at the plant has been assisting with problems that could arise due to chemicals or hurricanes," he said. "I have had a large role in preparing for those things and protecting the plant. The parish basically uses the same set of guidelines that we have at the plant. It’s not just nuclear stuff, because if you have to evacuate people, you know how to evacuate people no matter what the cause."
Perry has also made contacts both locally and across the state that are beneficial in case an emergency situation occurs in St. Charles.
"(At Entergy) I have worked closely with all of the people who I will work with in emergency preparedness, such as the Sheriff’s Office, emergency responders and the Public Works Department," Perry said. "I have also been the point of contact for Waterford 3 for entities outside of the parish and I am tied in to the state emergency operations staff, FBI, state police and all of those folks that would have a role if there was an emergency in St. Charles Parish."
Parish President V.J. St. Pierre also touted Perry’s involvement in local organizations. Perry has been the vice president of the parish’s Planning and Zoning Commission and is a member of the St. Charles Borremeo Men’s Club, the Norco Civic Association and the Red Church Council Knights of Columbus.
He earned his masters degree in Regional Planning from Penn State.
Perry, who will start work on Jan. 14, will follow in the footsteps of Scott Whelchel, who served as the director of Emergency Preparedness for three years before resigning in September.
Whelchel is now serving as the emergency services and security leader at Dow Chemical.
Whelchel is the second parish emergency director to leap frog from the post at St. Charles to Dow. Tab Troxler, who was the emergency director before Whelchel, also left his parish post to work at Dow. In fact, it was Troxler’s decision to leave Dow to take over as the parish’s assessor that first opened the door for Whelchel.
Perry will be the first emergency preparedness director to work at the parish’s new Emergency Operations Center, which is currently under construction.
The new EOC will be 13,000 square feet and will offer five times more floor space than the current EOC, which is located in the basement of the St. Charles Parish Courthouse. When completed, the new building will have a dedicated communications room, a fully functioning operations room, sleeping quarters for both male and female EOC personnel and a self-sustaining food preparation facility.
An audio-visual room will allow real-time assessment of imagery and maps while affording a secure area to host briefings. The building will also be built to withstand both winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a man-made explosion caused by a bomb.