New to politics, but not Destin: Matthew Pace has a heart for cleaning up Destin
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. Candidates will be profiled in alphabetical order. Read past profiles at thedestinlog.com. A candidate forum will be hosted by the Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee at Destin City Hall Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
As the former announcer for the Pensacola Ice Pilots, Matthew Pace is no stranger to crowds — but running for a seat on the Destin City Council is a little different.
"Usually I'm the biggest ham out there and want the microphone," the 34-year-old told The Log. "I have the same feeling when I was standing in front of 15,000 people at the civic center that I do now in front of a small group of people in Destin talking about this."
Pace was first introduced to the sugar white sands and emerald green waters of Destin as a youngster visiting the area with his aunt.
No more than 10 years old at the time, he still recalls making a bold statement.
"I remember saying to myself, this is where I wanted to live," he said. "I don't even know why I said that; I wasn't a beach nut and I hated fish, but I wanted to be there."
Attending the State University of New York, Pace graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in liberal arts/communications with a knack for all things media.
While he got a taste of the beach as a youngster, Pace cemented the idea that Destin would be his home after coming to the area as a volunteer with AmeriCorps. During his first year in the program, he volunteered more than 1,700 hours of his time. Pace was stationed at Butler Elementary school, where he served as a reading instructor.
After spending a year and a half with AmeriCorps, Pace said it "was probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done."
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Pace worked at Sandestin and RE/MAX before opening Pace PC Solutions, a marketing and IT Solutions company, in 2007.
Although he is in the computer business now, that wasn't where Pace thought he would be.
"I thought I was going to be some type of radio announcer or television producer," he said. "Every time I turned around, I got pushed back into this field."
While he could have followed his dream job to any number of cities, the beaches of Destin and a desire to be near his family was too big of a draw for Pace, who actually lives on the same street as his parents, Will and Lucille Rogers.
Pace has one sister, who he says is his best friend, and it just so happens that they were born on the same day, only three years apart.
"I don't think we've missed a birthday together," he said. "She has always held it against me that I've had several birthdays to myself."
When's he's not working or preparing for his upcoming October wedding, Pace says he likes to hit the golf course, especially Kelly Plantation.
"When I get back there, I kind of just get lost," he told The Log.
When he talks to people around town, the main theme he takes away is cleanliness. Pace said he would like to see a greater focus on community pride and cleaning up the city.
"Some of that is lost, because people get busy in their own world and their daily routines," he said. "That's a big concern."
Although politics was the "furthest thing" from his mind, Pace knows that he wants to give back to the community he calls home.
But is he nervous?
"In one manner, yes," he said, "but on the other side, I get a lot of respect in the community, and as long as I give that back, it's not as bad as it may seem in my head."
While Pace, who considers himself a "universal thinker," may be one of the youngest candidates in the race, he doesn’t view that as a drawback.
"I'm new to the arena of politics, but I'm not new to Destin," he told The Log. "Ultimately, it boils down to who is going to do the best for the city of Destin, and if I don't get elected, that's not the end of me giving back."