This will be a very short blog from your usually long-winded editor, which seems appropriate for the subject this week --- Bryan Perry, chief of the Buxton Volunteer Fire Department, is a man of few words.
The guys in the Buxton VFD heard about a way they could honor their chief and they decided to go for it, even though they feared their leader would not approve of being singled out for recognition.
Anyway, the Buxton firefighters got together and made a short video nominating Perry for recognition in the Stand up and Stand Out initiative, sponsored by Firehouse magazine and Firehouse.com.
The initiative is designed to recognize the outstanding volunteer firefighters across the country and to encourage membership and participation in volunteer fire departments everywhere.
The guys were so concerned that Bryan wouldn't like the idea that they didn't tell him about it until it was a done deal and they told him then only because the contest rules required them to.
The chief, they knew, would insist that he didn't deserve any more recognition than any other volunteer in his department, on Hatteras Island, or anywhere else.
Maybe he is right about that, but they thought otherwise.
And you can't ignore that fact that Bryan Perry is the "dean" of Hatteras Island fire chiefs.
He joined the Buxton VFD in 1976 when he was 20 years old, and he has been chief since 1982 -- for 34 years.
He's the kind of guy who can be a man of few words, but when he speaks, everybody listens -- not just in his department, but in other departments and in the community.
Perry's family goes back many generations on Hatteras Island. He grew up in Hertford, N.C., but spent summers on the island and moved back as soon as he could. He and his wife, Susie, who live on Flowers Ridge Road in Buxton, own the Frisco Rod & Gun and Frisco Market, which they bought in 1979 from his uncle. It's still a family business, where their two grown children, Kyle Perry and Natalie Kavanagh, work beside them -- in the business and in the community.
In the video for Stand Up and Stand Out, Buxton's deputy chief, Jeffrey Del Monte, begins by introducing Bryan as "not only a bedrock of this department but also of the community."
"He epitomizes the true spirit of leadership with his 'first in, last out approach,'" says Del Monte.
Other members of the fire department describe the chief as "essential," "a mentor," a "true leader," a "role model."
"He's always there and always fair," says one volunteer. Another adds that he "mixes old school grit with modern techniques."
I think you get the idea that his fellow volunteers think a lot of their chief.
The voting in the Stand Up and Stand Out initiative began on June 1 and runs through July 31.
Perry is doing well, currently ranking fifth with more than 3,700 votes.
Right now, the leader has 6,100 votes, but if all of you Island Free Press readers would take a minute to go online and click the button, the Buxton chief could go over the top.
And here's the thing -- you can vote once a day from now until July 31.
The winner in this competition doesn't get a big check or a trip to Disney World or anything like that. Mostly, the winner gets bragging rights -- which Perry would never want -- and some well-deserved recognition for his department and volunteers everywhere -- which, I am sure, he would be grateful for.
The five finalists will get 200 10-year smoke alarms to distribute in their community, a Fire Prevention Week kit, and a few memberships and registrations for gatherings of firefighters.
I found it interesting to read on firehouse.com that 87 percent of the fire departments in the country are partly or all-volunteer organizations.
The volunteer fire departments on Hatteras and Ocracoke are the heart of the island communities -- as is the case, I am sure, in many small towns across America.
The members respond not only to fires but to other emergencies, such as vehicle accidents and, on our islands, after hurricanes.
The fire chiefs are all involved in planning for storm response. During storms, they are our emergency communicators, and after storms, the fire departments are the place where folks often gather for information or sometimes vital supplies. After Hurricane Irene in 2011 when a new inlet cut off Hatteras Island, the Avon Volunteer Fire Department became something of a community center where villagers came together for meals and fellowship.
On Hatteras Island, there are about 150 volunteer firefighters in the six departments -- Chicamacomico Banks, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras village. According to a quick survey of the chiefs, each department has a couple dozen on the roster, though some are more active than others.
And they always need new members. To volunteer, contact a current firefighter or just show up at the weekly meetings. All of the fire departments meet on Monday evenings at 7 except for Hatteras village, which meets on Tuesdays at 7.
I hope you will go online now to vote for Buxton's fire chief. Island residents, support your volunteers. And island visitors are welcome to vote also.
As one woman told Natalie Perry Kavanagh, "He's my chief too for one week out of the year."
Click here to vote today and everyday until July 31.