Colleagues Recall Fiery City Manager’s Legacy
By Olin Ericksen
August 31 -- Perry Scott -- the firebrand city manager and councilman whose storied battles with labor unions headlined his nearly 15 years in city government -- died in a Redding Hospital this month. He was 80.
From his first days as City Manager in 1963 until he left the City Council in 1981, Scott, who died on August 20, charged headlong into City business with a managerial style that his friends and colleagues recall was unique to the former World War II paratrooper.
“You might say he was, well, I don’t want to say thick-headed, but he certainly was strong-minded,” said Bob Gabriel, a council member in the early 1970’s and a friend of Scott’s. “Once he made up his mind, he stuck to his guns.”
A “great administrator who ran a tight budget,” Scott was the last of a breed of city managers who ran municipal business then like a CEO runs a Fortune 500 Company today, Gabriel said.
“To be sure, “All I need is four votes,’” was a saying Scott was known to utter when facing a City Council vote, colleagues recall.
Although peers credit Scott with moving the City forward fiscally and meeting its day-to-day needs for nearly a decade, many admit that, at times, Scott’s deliberate manner led to conflict.
Scott butted heads with several groups, such as environmentalists when proposing a causeway from Santa Monica to Malibu, and again with residents who wanted to save the pier in the late 1970’s.
“Those who worked for him thought he was great, and those who were against him couldn’t wait for him to leave,” said Gabriel, who has run an insurance company in the City for more than 50 years.
Union members, however, may top the list of those who steered clear of the six-foot-tall Scott as he marched through the corridors of City Hall and sighed relief when he retired as city manager in 1973.
Scott’s attitudes toward labor and tough negotiation tactics with unions pitted him against a number of organizations over the years, including the police, firefighters and garbage collectors, just to name a few.
Disputes with garbage collectors in the early 1970s may have been the most heated of his labor battles, with Scott firing the entire staff after they went on strike. Scott was so determined to break the strike that he reportedly climbed aboard a garbage truck to pick up trash around the City.
The strife escalated to the point where there were death threats against Scott and other City leaders. “Perry lived three blocks down when we had the 24-hour police patrol stationed at the house,” Gabriel said. “It was a pretty nasty situation.”
Despite Scott’s best efforts, unionization took hold in the city. He eventually left Santa Monica in 1983, a few years after the powerful tenant’s group, Santa Monica for Renter’s Rights, wrested the reigns of City government from business interests.
Many trace Scott’s tough-as-nails managerial style to his days of service in the army during World War II, where he earned a bronze star for bravery and fought in some of the toughest battles of the war.
“I would say anybody in the 101st Airborne had a pretty good understanding of who they were and what they were after the hell they went through,” said Bob Sullivan, whose late business partner was former Mayor Anthony Dituri. “They were some tough S.O.B’s, that’s for sure.”
Sullivan, a Navy vet himself, said Scott put aside the tough exterior when it came to his family.
At no time was that more evident than when Scott was dealing with the tragic aftermath of a traffic accident that left his son brain damaged, Sullivan said.
Despite such hardship, Scott raised two boys and enjoyed a happy marriage, friends said.
“Eve and he were very happy,” recalled Scott’s former campaign manager and friend, Leslie Dutton, who kept in touch with Scott through letters after he moved to Shasta County.
“He was hard of hearing because of the artillery, so we couldn’t communicate over the phone,” said Dutton.
In the later years of his life, Scott worked in real estate and passed the time close to his family in Northern California, Dutton said. No matter what he did in his retirement, Dutton, like others who knew him, believe Scott probably did it with vigor.“Perry was the last of his breed,” Dutton said. “A great administrator and great person.”
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