Written by Michael Love
Keith McCoy pictures
Walking in Harpersville, you might think the Theo Perkins guy has copies of himself all over town. Every morning, he drives a school bus, and then, depending on how his day is scheduled, he’ll run some errands as the mayor of Harpersville, show off property to aspiring homeowners as a realtor, or work with his church members — and we mean his church. Perkins founded Liberty Christian Church in 2003 and has served as lead pastor for the past 18 years from a congregation that now has 230 members.
Wearing too many hits might make everyone else’s head spin, but not Theo. He takes pride in his work, and believes that staying busy keeps the spirit and mind young.
Let’s start with his first hat in the morning. Theo has officially been driving the bus for 29 years, but that doesn’t count the years he spent on the bus when he was in high school. “I enjoy it,” he says. “A lot of people say, ‘Children are awful, they’re not what they used to be,’ and that’s why I say, ‘Kids are still kids, and as long as you respect them and demand respect from them then you don’t have a problem. This is how I drive the bus.”
Over the years, he’s seen students come and go, always making sure to remind them that their time at school is precious. His influence on well-known students across the city has inspired some of the local teachers.
He was recently contacted by a teacher from another school about a specific speech he gives to students each morning. She says, ‘You’re not here to eat, sleep, socialize, or court. You are here to get an education. I wish you a happy day. “But this teacher came to me, and said that since she heard my words, she gave it to her students.”
Theo’s life of service and imparting wisdom to others began with the help of then-Chairman of the City, Weltha Kelly, who happens to be a former teacher, having attended college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. “Perkins, I’m home. I’ve been away from college. It’s time to give back to your city,” he said to Theo.
Wiltha went to tell him about a vacancy at the local water board and that he was planning to nominate him for the role. Perkins Theo hesitated at first but ended up taking the position. A few months later, Weltha pushed Theo to the planning board. Over the years, he rose to prominence as a city council member, and in 2004 he made the decision to run for mayor. He was elected and served for 12 years. After losing one year, he jumped back into the precinct and once again became the city’s number one with its people in mind.
“People want someone who will listen to them and take their concerns seriously,” Theo says. People’s problems are legitimate. Whether we thought they were minors or whatever, we put people here to be able to solve problems. I hear people talking, “Oh, so-and-so called me about their cat up in the tree.” Well, that’s part of it. That’s why we’re here to help solve their problems, and people appreciate that.”
Helping people as mayor led to another love in his life as well: real estate. When he reached out to his friend Fallon Lowe of Lowe Realty in Colombia and told him he was discussing going into real estate, Fallon told him it was an excellent idea.
Theo worked with Fallon for a while learning the ropes of real estate and “cutting his teeth,” then went on to work for Abast Realty for a few years before getting his broker license. With time as a co-broker under his belt, he recently started his own company, Realty Perkins, in February 2021. “I don’t really like just showing properties, but I like evaluating real estate for people, and helping people through the whole process,” he says. “Some people need to go through it and have someone hold their hand, and we’d be happy to hold their hand through it all.”
His favorite part of the home buying process is the “indescribable joy” he feels when helping people find their first home – something he won’t change for the world and that makes the stressful home buying process worth it.
This topic carries over into his church life as well. Perkins was raised in a church, and his parents instilled a strong sense of faith and worship into his life. For years he sang in his church choir, eventually became choir director and felt called to lead the service in the late 1990s. It was painted soon after. For the first five years of his ministry, he held the position of pastor, then in 2000 he began pastoring his first alpine church in the county of Talladega for three years.
The current Theo Church is not denominational because he desires the church to be open to all who want to express their love for God and are searching for their purpose in life.
“We want to reach people and tell them that their lives can be changed through the word of God,” he says. “We want to uplift people and help them reach their God-given potential because everyone has potential.
For Theo, it is important to recognize everyone who walks through the doors of the Liberty Christian Church, focusing his care and attention on the whole person. Jeremy Bradford, Church Praise and Worship Leader, and also a Perkins real estate client can attest to this as he describes Theo as a “jewel of the community.” “He’s a life coach, counselor and friend,” says Jeremy. “He’s really the kind of person you want in your corner.”
For example, when Jeremy’s grandmother died, Theo prayed for him, “when I didn’t know how to pray for myself,” and encouragement helped Jeremy get through a very dark time and regain his confidence again, something he is forever grateful for.
Relational interactions like this, whether through real estate, bus driving, working as a mayor, or caring for the church, are what bring Theo the most happiness. “I want our society to be great. I want it to be better, and I think that is the thing that gives me happiness.” “When I see things getting better, when I see their light it gets better, because it shows that all of these roles I play make a difference.”
When asked where he finds the strength to lead so many people toward discovering their truth, Theo had one credit: God. Although he admits it can be a challenge at times, he knows it’s all for a greater purpose than him.
“I know what my gift is,” he says. “I know what my goal is, which is to encourage, to advance people. These things allow me to do what God called me to do.”