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C. E. Perkins, Innovative City Manager, Dies at 89

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flags flew at half-staff over City Hall on Tuesday as Glendale bid farewell to one of its most influential municipal leaders, former City Manager C. E. (Gene) Perkins, dead at age 89.

In a ceremony at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Glendale, Perkins was eulogized as the man who established the city’s conservative pay-as-you-go spending philosophy four decades ago, then launched the Glendale Galleria and downtown redevelopment project in the face of widespread community opposition.

Perkins died early Saturday at Glendale Adventist Hospital where he was admitted Aug. 1 after battling Parkinson’s disease for almost 20 years, said his son, Alan G. Perkins, 45, of Davis, Calif.

“What he has done will always live,” Mayor Larry Zarian said Tuesday during the memorial service attended by more than 100 city and civic leaders at the Little Chapel of the Flowers. “The candle that he lit will stay lit and we will remember him forever.”

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The quiet-spoken, low-key civil engineer served as city manager from 1952 to 1972--the longest term ever held at that post in Glendale. Even when he was forced to resign at the age of 68 under a since-repealed state age-limit mandate, Perkins continued to represent the city on the board of the Metropolitan Water District until his retirement in 1988.

Among Perkins’ innovative programs was creating a capital improvement fund shortly after coming to Glendale in 1952. By setting aside half of all sales tax revenue, Perkins established a policy still held today of paying for municipal improvements without incurring debt--a rarity among governments.

During his tenure, 16 public buildings plus park facilities were financed and built, including the architecturally striking Municipal Services Building, which stands on stilts above an open plaza at the Civic Center, police headquarters, five fire stations and the Glendale Central Library.

Perkins was present last year when a new $26-million public service building at the Civic Center was dedicated in his honor. The building houses administrative services for the city’s utilities, an area of particular expertise to Perkins, who managed a water firm and a public service company in Oklahoma before coming to Glendale.

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When he retired in 1972, just as the controversial downtown redevelopment zone and Galleria shopping mall projects were launched, Perkins predicted a new era for the city, which he said was no longer “a sleepy little community,” according to accounts in The Times. He said the town “is changing . . . is less conservative today and will be less conservative tomorrow.”

Nevertheless, his conservative financial policies have been held sacred by succeeding city managers and council members. “He was a giant of a man, a leader among city managers in the state, if not the nation,” Zarian said Tuesday.

Born in Lawrence, Kan., in 1904, Calvin Eugene Perkins held a degree in civil engineering from the University of Kansas, where he also completed graduate studies. He later obtained a master’s degree in public administration from USC while serving as city manager.

He served in Europe as an officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and was awarded a bronze star for his services.

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Perkins and his wife of 46 years, Jeanne, met in France, where she worked for the French government as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. Perkins retired from the Army reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1962.

Prior to coming to Glendale, Perkins worked as director of domestic route development for Trans World Airlines and as city manager of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Columbia, Mo.

He was active in the Glendale Kiwanis Club, a former vice president of the International City Managers Assn. and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Verdugo Club.

The Rev. Eugene Golay, a retired Methodist minister active in local issues affecting senior citizens, officiated at the services.

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In addition to his wife and son, Perkins is survived by two other children, Donna Perkins-Wells of Kansas City, Mo., and Robert E. Perkins of South Hampton, N.J.; nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Perkins’ name to the American Parkinson Disease Assn., 14551 Friar St., Van Nuys, 91411.


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