Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was taken to a secret location ahead of President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address after the White House revealed he would be the “designated survivor” for the duration of the event.
The former Texas governor was sworn in as the Department of Energy secretary on March 2, 2017. Before his appointment, Perry, 68, was a member of pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners’ board.
From his role in Texas politics to participating in a televised dance competition, here are seven things to know about Perry.
He leads the very department he wanted to eliminate
Before Perry was ever confirmed as Energy Secretary, he infamously vowed to abolish the very department in what became known as his “oops” moment during a presidential debate.
During the November 2011 debate, Perry said he wanted to eliminate three departments – but could only name Commerce and Education. He floundered, and other Republican candidates offered up suggestions, but it wasn’t until several minutes later that he remembered the Department of Energy was his third choice.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate in 2017, Perry said he regretted his plan to get rid of the Energy Department.
Perry was also very critical of Trump during his presidential campaign, calling him at one point a “cancer on conservatism.”
Perry is Texas’s longest-serving governor
Perry is familiar with Texas politics, having served as a state representative, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner and governor.
Perry’s tenure as governor – which spanned nearly 15 years – makes him the longest serving governor in Texas history. He often touts the economic success in Texas under his leadership. According to his Energy Department biography, Perry “championed conservative principles that helped Texas become America’s economic engine.”
Prior to becoming governor, Perry served as the state’s lieutenant governor for nearly two years under George W. Bush. Perry became governor when Bush was elected president.
Perry, too, ran for the Republican nomination for president twice, but he eventually dropped out of the races.
He was first elected to the state legislature in 1982, where he served until 1990. As a state lawmaker, Perry was a Democrat. It wasn’t until 1990 when he ran for agriculture commissioner that he switched parties, according to the Dallas Morning News.
He appeared on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Perry was a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” in 2016 – but was eliminated in the second round. While on the show, Perry raised money for veterans’ organizations, the Star-Telegram reported.
Ahead of the show, Perry told the Texas Tribune that he was the “least-experienced dancer” on the program. His partner was professional dancer Emma Slater.
He served in the Air Force
Perry flew C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in Europe and the Middle East, according to his Energy Department biography. He served in the Air Force from 1972 to 1977.
Perry met his wife in elementary school
Perry married his wife, Anita Thigpen Perry in 1982. The pair originally met in elementary school at a piano recital, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Together, they have two children.
Home is where the farm is
Perry grew up on a farm in Texas and became an Eagle Scout, according to his biography.
He attended Texas A&M University, where he majored in animal science.
In his youth, Perry worked as a door-to-door Bible reference book salesman, working in a small town in eastern Missouri in 1969, according to the Houston Chronicle. Washington County Judge John Brieden, a friend of Perry’s who also sold the books, credited the skills Perry learned doing this job to his success campaigning.
He turned himself into police after a federal indictment
Perry turned himself into authorities at a Travis County justice complex in Austin – where he was fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken – after being indicted over abuse of power allegations in 2014.
“I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law, and I’m here today because I did the right thing,” Perry said at the time. “I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing that the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, but right.”
At issue was Perry’s threat to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s public integrity unit after a Democratic district attorney declined to resign after being arrested for driving while intoxicated.
The criminal case was eventually dismissed in 2016.