May 15, 2020
Coronavirus Ruled Out as Texas Lobbyist Killer
as Cause of Death Still Appears to Be Mystery
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
|Texas Death Trek
County Rates Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on COVID-19 Death Rates
The Texas coronavirus death toll hit its lowest point since early April early this week before claiming 116 lives in the next three days and breaking the daily record with 58 fatalities in a 24-hour span that ended on Thursday afternoon.
But one of the dozen people who the virus killed in Texas on Monday was not a veteran energy lobbyist who died at his home that day after feeling bad since the start of the weekend.
Steve Perry's friends, associates and peers in the Austin lobby had believed for several days that he'd been a victim of the disease that had claimed almost 1,300 lives around the state in the past two months. But the Travis County Medical Examiner's office has informed at least one other person who'd been in Perry's physical presence in the past couple of weeks that the cause of death had not been determined but that the coronavirus had been ruled out.
Perry's sudden demise has the statehouse in a state of shock and mourning as a successful and popular statehouse professional who'd gone to work as an advocate for Texaco almost 20 years before taking over as the state government affairs manager for Chevron in early 2004.
Perry - a University of Texas graduate who'd been active in the Longhorn alumni association - had started feeling poorly last Friday. But that didn't stop him from participating in a conference call that the Texas Oil & Gas Association conducted three days later around lunchtime.
Perry and his Chevron lobby associate in Austin - Julie Williams - spoke on the phone after the TXOGA call and told her colleague that he didn't sound like himself. Perry acknowledged that he hadn't felt that good for a few days and Williams responded by saying that she'd send an Uber driver to his home in north central Austin to take him to the doctor. But Perry assured Williams that he'd be fine as they discussed another conference call that they'd had scheduled for mid-afternoon.
Williams became very worried when Perry wasn't on the line for the next group call - and after trying and failing to reach him on the phone several times - she contacted ConocoPhillips lobbyist Tom Sellers who lived nearby and asked if he could go check on her partner.
Williams called 911 to have an ambulance go to Perry's residence as well. Emergency medical service workers broke through the front door when no one responded to their knocking.
Perry was dead on the bathroom floor.
But Perry hadn't been sick enough to contact a physician for a possible coronavirus test or to go to an emergency room amid fears for his life. The lobbyist's death appeared at first to be more like a hit and run by a disease that he'd obviously underestimated and paid the ultimate price for doing so. The cause of Perry's sudden demise could be more of a mystery now until the coroner rules otherwise.
Perry, who hadn't been married or had children, had been a community activist as well as a government advocate. Perry served on the Texas Civil Justice Association board - and he'd been elected in 2018 as the vice-president of the environmental nonprofit organization Keep Texas Beautiful. Perry had helped lead a push in 2010 that culminated in a substantial infusion of funding for the Austin Lyric Opera from Chevron and several other companies.