Perusse has fond memories of Havelock

Charlie Perusse remembers finding his calling to public service at the Bayside Restaurant in Havelock.

Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed the 1988 Havelock High School graduate to be state budget director, a position he held previously in the administration of then Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Perusse lived at 36 Donnell Ave., for three years after moving to Havelock with his mother, Carol Toomajian.

“She was a famous waitress at Bayside Restaurant,” said Perusse. “Everybody in the community loved Carol and I think still does.”

Toomajian now lives in Raleigh and still works part-time waiting tables at the State Farmer’s Market Restaurant.

Perusse remembers Havelock as being “a tight-knit community filled with pride and compassion and driven for success.”

“I remember there were several families that sort of took me under their wing realizing that I had moved from New York, was being raised by a single parent and didn’t know a lot of people, and they were so warm and friendly and open to making me feel at home,” Perusse said.

Perusse worked weekends at the Bayside Restaurant as a cook.

“For the years when I was in high school, I would work the weekends, six to two on Saturday and Sunday and then usually five to 10 on Friday nights,” Perusse said.

Perusse remembers a table filled with what they used to call The Coffee Gang.

“The leaders of the Havelock community, the city council, some of the county commissioners, even some of the board of education, the mayor, would always sit around and have coffee in the morning, and there would be different groups of them just chatting about what was going on in the city or the county,” he said. “And as I was cooking food or sometimes bussing tables, I would just listen in and take it in and it kind of got me interested in a career in public service.”

Perusse said he always had a natural ability with mathematics.

“It started when I was a young child in the early grades that I could do math and computations in my head quicker than most people could do them on paper or even with a calculator,” said Perusse. “I always enjoyed doing it. I always enjoyed solving problems and thinking critically about things.”

He continues to have several fond memories of Havelock High School, he said.

“I would sort of characterize it as this: I was provided with a really strong educational foundation at Havelock High School that encouraged me to be myself, to think big, and to go to college,” said Perusse. “My mom had a community college degree but didn’t have a four-year degree, and Havelock High School teachers and principals encouraged me to go to college and reminded me that I was very intelligent and that education would open doors for the rest of my life, and I’m not sure if not for the pushing of the teachers and the principals that I would have gone on to college and had the opportunities that I have had, so in my heart, once a Ram, always a Ram.”

Perusse went to N.C. State University and was in the Air Force ROTC program but soon realized that the military didn’t fit his personality.

“I took an introduction to public administration class and really enjoyed it, and a professor at N.C. State really encouraged me to go on the graduate school and get a master’s degree in public administration, which would allow me to work in managerial and executive roles in government,” said Perusse.

He got that degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I also realized that sort of the intersection of policy and doing good things was the budget. The budget was where the rubber met the road,” said Perusse. “Money drives a lot of policy decisions, and so I was good at numbers and interested in doing budgets, so the rest is history.”

In the 24 years since then, Perusse has used his skills in many roles, including in the fiscal research division at the General Assembly. He spent nine years in the state budget office, including six as a deputy director. He also spent six years as the chief operating officer of the University of North Carolina system.

“Now I have come back home to be state budget director again at a very important time for our state, and I am really excited about it,” said Perusse. “I am so thankful of the time I had in Havelock and I am a proud Ram forever.”