By Maria Saporta
Egbert Perry made history Tuesday morning.
Perry — founder, chairman and CEO of the Integral Group — became the first African-American to chair Central Atlanta Progress in its 70-year history.
Perry succeeds Taylor Glover, president and CEO of Turner Enterprises, who served a two-year term of the downtown business organization.
“I hope this is a lesson,” Perry said at CAP’s annual breakfast meeting held in the Peter Pan entertainment tent at Pemberton Place. “All I did was miss one nominating committee meeting, and I got a call to serve as chairman.”
Perry then dead-panned, saying that he was going to be a different kind of chairman in working with CAP President A.J. Robinson.
“Taylor and others shamelessly took credit for everything A.J. and his staff did,” Perry joked. “Don’t get me wrong. I will take the credit, but I will be ashamed as I do it.”
At no time during the meeting was it pointed out that Perry also would be CAP’s first African-American chairman.
“I am stunned,” said Larry Gellerstedt III, CEO of Cousins Properties whose father served two separate times as CAP’s chairman.
Gellerstedt and Perry actually have a tremendous history. “He and I met in 1978,” Gellerstedt said. At that time, Perry was working for H.J. Russell & Co., and Gellerstedt was working for Beers Construction. The companies were jointly working on the Woodruff Library project at the Atlanta University campus.
Later, Perry brought Gellerstedt in as a partner and president of Integral before Gellerstedt started his own development company that later was acquired by Cousins.
But their association continues. On Monday, Cousins and Integral were part of the team (which included Cleveland, Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises) that was selected by the Georgia Department of Transportation to work on the development of a multimodal transit station in the railroad gulch downtown.
Upon accepting the gavel as CAP chairman, Perry then borrowed from the theme of Peter Pan.
“To grow up does not mean to grow old,” Perry said. “Atlanta is growing up, but it is not growing old.”
And maybe one day, CAP will actually get its first woman to chair its board….