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Prime Living: Perry welcomes James Darley to the helm as mayor

PERRY — He doesn't have a lengthy personal history in Perry, but Jimmy Darley has been on a steep learning curve over the past couple of years, and is on track to lead the community for the next few years, as the new mayor. He succeeded Tommy Williams. 

Darley, a former Belvedere resident, bagged 25 votes, having moved to Perry on May 1, 2020 and settled into a community where prominent landmarks include Jake's Wholesale Fireworks, Dollar General, Enmarket (convenience store), Christy's Country Cooking, Fat Boys Deer Processing and the Indian Head historical marker, on SC 389. There is no school, post office or fire station.

The process of getting elected, he confirmed, was not exactly arduous.

"I turned my information in to Aiken and paid my $25, and I was the only one on the ballot," Darley said. "Nobody running against me, so I didn't think there was going to be a problem, but you never know."

The retired natural gas technician took office Jan. 3, joining a leadership corps that includes town council members Jenell Gilbert, Annie Clyde Williams (the current mayor's wife) and the husband-and-wife duo of Tony E. Thompson Sr. and Mary R. Thompson, with Alica Fulmer as the town clerk and treasurer, all serving an area between Wagener and Salley.

"It's a nice, quiet little town. I hope I can help make a difference. We have a lot of elderly people in the area, and we don't have that many young ones, and I like working around people, helping people," he said. 

One incident at the local veterans monument wound up being a springboard to Darley's current status, as he and his wife, Sheila Young, provided clean-up service around the monument, knocking back some excess vegetation. 

Al Brodie, a former Perry mayor, noticed the difference, called Darley on the phone a couple of days later and said, "I'm going to nominate you for mayor." Darley responded, "'Mr. Al, that's not going to happen.' Well, I found out you don't ever say never."  

Darley, who also has years of experience as a volunteer fireman, said he started attending the town council's meetings and developed some ideas that he is not yet free to discuss. "We need to come up into this century, somewhat, as far as the way they do payroll and that kind of thing."

Darley's background includes covering a great deal of territory, as he put in 43 years with Atlanta Gas Light, in Augusta. "I went in and turned people's gas on, went in and checked the appliances, checked for leaks. A lot of times we'd get ... leak calls. I was on call every so often. I also worked on the pipes underground – the big main lines," he said.

He's also an outdoorsman, fond of hunting and fishing, and in November, he bagged his first-ever deer – two bucks and a doe – sandwiched around his election as mayor.

Young, Darley's wife, helped lead him to move almost the entire distance across Aiken County. He recalled, "I met a young lady that's been over here all of her life, was born and raised over here, and lives almost to Salley, and .. she moved to Perry probably 12, 13, 15 years ago, and we met through a mutual friend, and we dated for five years, and I talked her into marrying me."

Their household is on the Salley side of town, about a half-mile from the town hall, also known as the former railroad depot, a few steps away from a caboose that the incoming mayor hopes to help restore as a possible tourist attraction. His community connections also include being a deacon at Perry First Assembly of God. 

For the moment, the town does not have a police officer, as the most recent one moved on for a position at South Carolina State University.

Perry has plenty of traffic, but not a great deal of stopping, he added. "We don't have a red light ... We don't have any four-way stops. There are a couple of two-way stops."

Belvedere, his hometown, has multiple traffic lights, and the new Perry mayor came up by way of Belvedere Elementary, Paul Knox Middle and North Augusta High schools.

He went to work straight out of high school, with a brief stint for Pepsi-Cola being followed by "43 years and like a month and a half" with Atlanta Gas Light Company, serving eight Georgia counties in the Augusta area: Jefferson, Glascock, Warren, Taliaferro, Wilkes, McDuffie, Columbia and Richmond.

Darley's jump from Belvedere to Perry has helped acquaint him with a large chunk of Aiken County, considering the amount of mileage. The trip normally takes about 45 minutes.

"I feel like I could drive it in my sleep," he said, "but that doesn't mean I'm going to try."