'A blue collar guy': Rodney Braden splits time as a businessman, adrenaline junkie

Matt Algarin
Rodney Braden, owner of Rodney's Home Repair, is one of eight candidates in the running for a seat on the Destin City Council.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of The Log's election coverage leading up to the March 11 city council elections, we will be profiling each candidate. Stories will appear each Wednesday and Saturday beginning today. Candidates will be profiled in alphabetical order.

As a lifelong Destin resident, Rodney Braden is more than familiar with the issues that affect the community. But politics aside, he is a man that craves adventure.

"I'd say I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, which makes it hard to get life insurance," the 47-year-old told The Log, letting out a deep belly roar. "I just try to live my life and have fun doing it."

Braden, a father of three girls aged 23, 10 and 8, has operated Rodney's Home Repair for the past 23 years.

When he's not working or spending time with his family, Braden likes to get extreme, whether it's bungee jumping, playing paintball, diving in the Gulf of Mexico, or skydiving.

“You are nervous when you first jump out, but then you have no sense of how fast you are falling," he said of his skydiving experiences. "When you finally pull the chute, you are just floating there under the canopy and it’s very peaceful."

And if that's not enough of an adrenaline fix, Braden is also a black belt in three different forms of martial arts. He is also an avid fisherman and deer hunter.

Over the years, his family has operated fishing boats, a motel, a gift shop, and a harborfront restaurant called Braden's Island, but his love affair with building comes from his grandfather, who was a builder in Georgia before moving to Destin.

"That's where my love is at and where my heart is," he said.

As Destin has grown over the years, Braden has seen the sleepy fishing village morph into a tourism hotspot along the Panhandle. For Braden, a self-described blue collar guy," there are challenges that come along with growth, such as over-development and a transition away from the days of old.

"I love it here, but it's getting to the point where it’s overgrown and pushing the family life out," he said. "There are a lot of people here with families and they want to raise their kids here; this isn't the Vegas strip."

"Not everything has to be commercial," he added.

Braden is no stranger to the election process, as he ran against current Councilman Jim Foreman and boat captain Andy Stempki during a special election in 2012 for the seat vacated by former councilman and current candidate Larry Hines.

Braden collected 39.5 percent of the vote, which was second to Foreman's 44.2 percent. The experience was a good opportunity to learn a little bit about the candidate process, Braden said.

The decision to run for city council again was an easy choice for Braden, who is the first person to admit that he is a bit nervous, but feels as though it's the "right thing to do" after being approached by Destin residents.

"I don't have a dog in the fight," he said. "I'm doing this because I want to be a voice for the community — listen to what they have to say, then bring it to the table."

"People don't like the direction that Destin is headed," he added. "It's starting to look like Miami."

With a total of eight candidates in the running, Braden told The Log he is glad to see people step up to the plate for the March 11 election. And while he never planned on running for a political office, times change.

"I want to help Destin, and that's all I'm trying to do," he said. "I'm just a blue collar guy, and I love what I'm doing."

VOTE SMART: Meet the candidates

If you want to meet the candidates first hand, The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and The Destin Log will host a candidate forum on Feb. 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Destin United Methodist Church. Submit questions early to moderator William Hatfield at whatfield@thedestinlog.com