AIKEN -- When Greg Ryberg moved to Aiken 22 years ago, long before he ran for the South Carolina Senate, he couldn't help noticing the man in the yellow Jeep who seemed to be everywhere.
The noticeable vehicle has bitten the dust, but that "yellow Jeep memory says the most about Skipper Perry," today the city's mayor pro tem, a city council member from 1971 to 1987, and elected again in 1989, the resident senator said.
"For his whole life in Aiken, he has been involved everywhere," Mr. Ryberg said of Mr. Perry.
The decades of service were honored Monday with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian recognition. The award, designating Mr. Perry a "Palmetto gentleman," was a surprise presentation at the end of a routine city council meeting. Mr. Ryberg delivered it for former Gov. David Beasley, who signed it earlier this month just before leaving office.
Mr. Perry learned that he might receive the Order of the Palmetto in mid-January, just before the change of the guard at the governor's office, but did not know when or where it would happen.
When it did, there was a hint that something was up.
"I didn't think anything about seeing Greg Ryberg at a city council meeting," Mr. Perry said. "But when my mother walked in, I knew something was up."
His wife and several friends also were there.
Mr. Perry's civic involvements have included the Aiken Symphony Guild and Polo Club, Historic Aiken Foundation, Downtown Development Corp., United Way, Jaycees, Sertoma, chairmanship of the Palmetto Amateur Golf Tournament, volunteer work with Hitchcock Rehabilitation Foundation and chairmanship of the Adult Development Center.
He is a member of Aiken Corp., the city's economic development arm, and the South Carolina Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. He is a former chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party and was former Gov. James B. Edwards' appointee to the South Carolina Community Development Commission. He is president of Skip Sports and a consultant to Event Partners Inc. of Atlanta.
City Manager Roger LeDuc said he might arrange periodic awards for Mr. Perry because this one left him speechless.
In regular business Monday, the city council:
Gave preliminary approval to franchise agreements with South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and Aiken Electric Cooperative for service and expansion of underground wiring in the city limits. Franchise agreements with utilities are not new, but these recognize competition and put the local co-op on equal footing with SCE&G for the first time.
The franchises require a second council vote in February.
Extended Aiken Municipal Airport's operational lease to 20 years.
Accepted a $410,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve the airfield lighting system and upgrade its master plan for future development.