Timken grad, exec eager to oversee federal agency
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Stephen A. Perry has come a long way since his first job at Timken Co., where the then-high school graduate went to work as a stationery stock clerk in 1964.
Now a top executive at Timken, Perry is being nominated to head the General Services Administration, a federal agency that provides office space, supplies and services to other federal departments and agencies. The White House made President Bush’s selection of Perry official Wednesday.
If the Senate approves his nomination, Perry, 55, will take command of an agency with a $16 billion budget and 14,000 employees. He also will run into one of the realities of government service. The federal job pays $115,000 to $160,000 a year — a huge drop from the $310,000 he earned at Timken last year.
“It’ll be a very important responsibility and I look on it very much as a very important responsibility,” Perry said. “I’ll devote 100 percent of my efforts and talents to be able to accomplish the things the president would like to see accomplished.”
While his first job at Timken as stock clerk was far less exalted than head of the General Services Administration, it dealt with the similar responsibility of providing supplies to employees. Perry took orders for pencils, typewriter ribbons, pads and other items, which he delivered to secretaries in various offices at the Canton-based steel maker.
“It was a very menial job, but at the same time it’s my belief every experience has its opportunities for learning and growth,” he said. Perry took advantage of the job by learning what he could about the different areas of the company where he delivered supplies.
“I might ask a secretary, ‘How do you use this form in your area?’ ” he said. “By the time I moved up to the accounting department, I was pretty knowledgeable about the company.”
Perry graduated from University of Akron after attending night school at Kent State University Stark Campus. He earned a master’s degree from Stanford University.
His parents taught him to prepare for any opportunities that might arise, he said.
“My mother and father used to tell us opportunity may or may not ever present itself to you, but if it does present itself and you aren’t prepared, then you will not be able to take advantage of it,” he said. “Doing today’s work the best you possibly can — that leads you to the next opportunity.”
Perry’s nomination to head the General Services Administration marks the highest appointment for any Ohio resident in the Bush administration so far. Perry earlier was considered for labor secretary, a post that went to Elaine Chao.
Managing the General Services Administration is beyond anything Perry has done as a Timken executive or as director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, a post he held from 1991 to 1993. Then-Gov. George Voinovich appointed Perry to that position. Now as the state’s junior senator, Voinovich is “excited about the leadership he’ll bring to an unsung, yet critical agency. I’ve been advocating at the federal level the same types of common-sense reforms that we accomplished in Ohio, and I know now that the leadership at GSA will understand what I’m trying to do and its value,” he said.
While the state agency’s responsibilities were similar to the General Services Administration, it had a much smaller budget of $2.2 billion and 1,300 employees under Perry. At Timken, with $2.7 billion in revenue last year and 21,000 employees worldwide, Perry has served as senior vice president of human resources, purchasing and communications since 1997.
Perry said it’s too early to know what his goals for the General Services Administration will be. But he believes the lessons he learned during 35 years at Timken will be relevant at the agency. Those lessons include the importance of “having a vision and goal shared by the organization, having
people in the organization that have the commitment and desire to achieve those goals, and doing all the things that are necessary to accomplish those goals,” he said.
Perry met Bush for the first time at the inauguration when the president stopped in at the Ohio inaugural ball in Washington. According to Federal Election Commission records, Perry gave $1,000 to the Bush campaign in
late 1999. He contributed an additional $5,000 to GOP candidates and organizations in Ohio over the past two years. W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Timken, and the company have been major contributors to Bush and GOP organizations. Perry has not seen or talked with the president since the inauguration, he said.
He expressed mixed emotions about his planned early retirement from Timken and move out of Canton, where he was born and reared. One of his five children, plus brothers, sisters and cousins, still live in Canton, he said.
“I am very excited about the prospect of working for President Bush, but I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career and set of relationships with the Timken Co.,” he added. Perry expressed appreciation to Timken for his managerial ability and advancing him to senior management positions.