By Barney Blakeney
Since beginning his service on Charleston City Council in 2012, Dist. 7 Councilman Perry Keith Waring has been a fiscally pragmatic presence previously absent. It is among the many skills he’s developed over a lifetime of service and desire to achieve progress. He hopes to continue his service on council after the November 5 Charleston municipal elections.
Waring grew up in West Ashley’s St. Andrew’s Parish on Wallace School Road off S.C. Highway 61. A 1973 Middleton High School graduate, Waring remembers when the area was rural. He’s seen the area evolve from rural, to suburban and now an urban community. He was among the first Black students to attend the newly integrated St. Andrews High School. He vividly recalls the racism and rejection he experienced. He considers those experiences a badge of honor and uses them to create a better quality of life for himself and others.
When he transferred to Middleton High, Waring realized that racism wasn’t a standard everywhere. Black and white students at Middleton got along well together. He was able to thrive academically and found three of his life’s passions – finance, wrestling and his future wife. They each offered him profound perspectives about life. He found the science of finance exacting, wrestling taught him that for every move there is a countermove and his subsequent marriage taught him the values of family and responsibility.
Waring learned the value of pragmatism after graduating high school. With an older brother already in college, his parents told him that going away to school would be a financial hardship. He opted to attend the College of Charleston for a year until his brother graduated then transferred to the University of South Carolina where he majored in Commercial Banking and Finance.
Also at USC, Waring married his high school sweetheart, Donna, his wife of 44 years. They married at the end of his sophomore year. With a new wife, Waring had a new responsibility. He was prepared. Keeping his family together always has been paramount, he says. He worked in security while in college and after graduating worked as an accountant in the administrations of governors James Edwards and Richard Riley from 1977-1979.
But Charleston and West Ashley was home. Waring said he wanted to return. He’d learned that planning and execution were vital to progress and he wanted to start his own business. He moved back to Charleston and took a job with a local investment company for two years until 1982. He and his wife started their financial planning firm, Charlestowne Associates, in 1982.
Over the next 30 years Waring continued to serve the community through various business and civic associations. Among other endeavors Waring has served as a member of the College of Charleston Diversity Committee, Charleston’s Planning and Zoning Board, the Executive Committee of the International African American Museum, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston Finance Board and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He served as chairman of the S.C. Jobs Economic Development Authority, Roper St. Francis Hospital’s Finance Committee and the Charleston Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
In 2011 Waring furthered his civic engagement with his election as a member of Charleston City Council. “I bring my business experience and talent to the table,” he said. He thinks that’s paid off for constituents. “My knowledge of the district coupled with my business talent and ability to communicate effectively to build coalitions on council are the unique qualities that separate me from my opponent,” he said.
His loyalty to Dist. 7 extends to other districts of the city, he also asserts. “We’re all joined at the hip. Increasing the city’s minimum wage is not just a Dist. 7 issue, it’s a city issue. And the Septima Clark Crosstown drainage project isn’t just a Dist. 7 issue. Effective communications and coalition building are tools I’ve used across the board to help build new affordable housing units on the Eastside and in Ashelyville/Maryville. Just in the past seven years we’ve invested over $100 million in projects that directly benefit Black communities and I can prove it,” he said.
They include the rehabilitation of Stoney Field, 62 units of affordable housing at the site of the former Cooper River bridges landfall at Meeting and Lee streets, 54 affordable housing units on Hanover Street, seven new affordable homes in the Ashleyville/Maryville neighborhood, Ashleyville Park and about $12.5 million to the International African American Museum.
“But the rapport that’s developed on this council line-up also has invested millions for parks and infrastructure for other communities,” Waring notes. “The successes are a result of a working coalition with other councilmembers including James Lewis, Bill Moody, Marvin Wagner, Gregorie, Mitchell and others.”
Waring said he’s asking voters for the privilege of continuing to work for them the next four years.