PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Pensacola mayor-elect D.C. Reeves had a long journey to get to where he is now.
From growing up in Pensacola, being a sportswriter for the Tuscaloosa News, being Quint Studer’s Chief of Staff, opening his own craft beer franchise and now becoming the new mayor of Pensacola, Reeves said he is looking forward to serving the city that served him.
As a son of a social worker, Reeves said he grew up around someone who cared about serving the community.
“From the time I was growing up till after college, I have lived in six different neighborhoods in Pensacola,” said Reeves. “My mother, Connie Bookman, was a social worker, and me and my brother really stayed with her most of the time. Now, she is the chairperson for the city’s homeless reduction task force. She started the women’s program at the Waterfront Rescue Mission so, I really grew up around someone who cared about service to our community. My dad was a State Representative, well before I was born. He’s been in politics, government and was a real estate attorney for the city for years and years.”
When Reeves was 7 years old, he said he remembers being in the back of board meetings playing his Gameboy.
“It was two very different experiences, but things have both really equally shaped my care for this community,” said Reeves. “As I got into business and got into being Quint Studer’s Chief of Staff, coming up through that eclectic upbringing would allow me to have a lot of life experiences that would help to get me to where I am now.”
Reeves’ life as a sportswriter
A 2002 graduate of Pensacola Catholic High School, Reeves said he grew up playing sports his entire life.
“I wrote my first article for the News Journal when I was 16,” Reeves said. “That was my first taste at something that I always wanted to do. I was fortunate to find that early.”
Reeves went on to Florida State University, where he was the editor of the school’s student newspaper.
After college, Reeves said he gave himself 10 years to really hone his craft and see how far he could get as a sportswriter. After spending four years at the Pensacola News Journal, he was hired by WarChant.com, the largest FSU sports website. He was then hired by the Tuscaloosa News to cover the University of Alabama’s football team.
“I told myself that I wanted to be a college football writer,” said Reeves. “I said I would give myself 10 years after college, and really see how far I could get. After working at the News Journal for four years, I got the opportunity to cover my alma mater for two years, which was an amazing experience covering football at that level. Then I got hired by the Tuscaloosa News to cover Alabama, which of course is the New York Yankees of college football. It was kind of funny, because that was right at 10 years. I certainly was proud of that accomplishment of getting to that level.”
The year before he left the Tuscaloosa News, Reeves said he won the largest award for sports writing in his division.
“It was a story that ESPN Gameday picked up and it was the most money that ESPN Gameday has ever spent to go do a piece,” said Reeves. “It was based on a story that I did, and it was this weird moment of getting to cover Alabama and win that award, but it was right at that 10 years.”
Working for Quint Studer
Reeves made it back to Pensacola, based on a connection he made with Quint Studer, the founder of Studer Group, a healthcare consulting company.
“I was fortunate that I had loosely known Quint Studer from my time working at the News Journal,” said Reeves. “It was kind of ironic. I broke the story that he bought a double AA baseball team and that the Blue Wahoos were coming to Pensacola. I knew him loosely, like he was the president of Baptist Hospital when my mom was a social worker there.”
While Reeves was at the Tuscaloosa News, he said Studer was trying to get better at social media management, and he reached out.
“I was lucky to get back to Pensacola,” said Reeves. “As you can imagine, college football writing wasn’t going to get me back anytime soon. So, it was really Quint having an eye on what I was doing with writing and social media, and he reached out to see if I wanted to be a part of his organization.”
Reeves opens Perfect Plain Brewing Co.
What Reeves described as the stars aligning started with his travels as a sportswriter.
“I moved down in 2015 and was trying to figure out my footing and what I wanted to do,” said Reeves. “From all of the traveling from sports writing, I would go to these cities and go out the night before football games and these local craft brewery places were getting more and more popular. I kind of asked the question of why don’t we have one of these downtown, industry-forward craft beer environments where I’m from? I didn’t really think anything of it. It was more of a, ‘one day that would be cool.’”
Reeves said he was in touch with a friend and homebrewer, Reed Odeneal, and always joked about how they would open a place one day.
“He was from Tallahassee and moved to Asheville, N.C., and I had moved on to Tuscaloosa, so you know, it was never going to happen,” said Reeves. “The stars aligned in November 2015. I sent him a text, which is still screenshotted, and it was, ‘Why don’t we do that brewery idea we had and say screw it.’”
The night before Reeves and Odeneal opened the brewery, he had 53 cents to his name.
“I showed a slide of my bank account to my six employees at the time to show them that it wasn’t just a hobby for me,” said Reeves. “It was everything I got. I really believed in it and Reed did too. Now, we’ve grown it to 40 employees and four locations.”
He said a lot of what he learned on the business side of things was from Studer.
“He created one of the world’s best healthcare consulting companies on employee satisfaction and employee satisfaction,” said Reeves. “I was able to adapt that to hospitality. I would never have been successful with the brewery without first learning from him. We’ve tripled our revenue and grew to one of the busiest taprooms in the State of Florida. It’s amazing to see an idea that you wrote down on a piece of paper come to life.”
The process behind running for mayor
Reeves started working for Studer in 2015, and by 2016, he was Studer’s Chief of Staff.
“Quint had such an impact on this community, not only in development, but investment, which at one point, he had $100 million invested back into the community, also their charity work and what they have done to better the community,” said Reeves. “I got a front row seat to watch that and help get those things across the finish line.”
Having all of that experience on these projects, Reeves said, bridged the gap between businessmen and helping the community.
“Being a mayor is a CEO position,” said Reeves. “You manage 800 plus employees and a $250+ million budget. So, yes, having that entrepreneur experience certainly is relevant, but I think how I resonated with the voters and our residents is not only do I have that experience, but I have that experience working for Quint and having that knowledge of knowing how to lead. I already have a track record of doing things to help our community and have had a lot of success with those projects.”
Reeves said that life doesn’t really have a plan.
“If you would have told me this five years ago, I would have told you that you’re crazy,” said Reeves. “I always say that I’m addicted to waking up every day and be able to impact change. Whether that’s in business or for the City of Pensacola, that’s been the common denominator. I’ve been so fortunate from journalist, Chief of Staff, to craft brewery owner, I have been so lucky to have the ability to wake up every day and impact peoples’ lives.”
From last Tuesday to now, Reeves said his phone has been on fire, which he said is a great problem to have.
“There have been so many congratulatory messages, which is an amazing feeling,” said Reeves. “It’s amazing to know that you run for an entire year because you care about this community – I always say that I am putting 100 percent of myself into this community, that this job isn’t a hobby. I want to give the city where I’m from everything that I have. You work that hard for a year and your team works so hard. For our message about the future of Pensacola to resonate with so many our citizens, it’s one of the most rewarding moments of my life. For us to get more than 50 percent of the vote and have people say, ‘Yes, you’re the one to lead Pensacola into the future,’ is quite an overwhelming feeling.”