Ex-SGA president, now mayor, reflects on college

Zach Henson

Staff Writer

Sitting in his office, Mayor Jason Reeves recalled his steps leading from growing up in Troy, to going to Troy University and becoming the mayor of Troy.

In the spring of 1990, the Troy native graduated from Charles Henderson High School, and in the fall, he started his time at Troy University.

Reeves had no idea at the time that he would eventually become the mayor of his hometown, but he decided to stay in Troy to be with his family instead of going away to another college.

“I thought about it, and it was a lot more mature decision than I probably had made before then,” Reeves said. “Because growing up, I was not very interested in leadership, or academics or anything of that nature, but I realized that at that point in time, I wanted to go to law school, and I decided that if I went away, I probably might not come back and wouldn’t really know my sister and would miss a lot of time with my grandparents in the last part of their lives, so I decided to stay and go to Troy, and it was the best decision I ever made.”

He soon found that the city of Troy and Troy University were two different worlds, and despite school, he also had to work in the spring of 1991. He then took some time off from school to work and save money.

A year later, in March 1992, Reeves decided to join the National Guard, which gave him an interest in leadership. In the fall, he re-entered Troy University with new fervor.

Upon his return to Troy, Reeves became heavily involved in his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), and in 1993, became the president.

As president of SAE, he became accustomed to leading others and taking responsibility, he said.

“I had to deal with some, you know, some crisis-type situations,” Reeves said. “Anytime you’re dealing with a group of young men like that, it can be unique to say the least.

“I learned to deal with some pressure type situations and learn to get along with people.”

While he was president of SAE, one of his fraternity brothers was the SGA clerk and helped Reeves run for the SGA Senate.

“We were standing on the quad,” said Reeves, “and he walked up, and he said, ‘Give me five dollars and sign this form.’ And I said, ‘OK. What did I just do?’ He said, ‘You’re running for the SGA Senate.’”

Soon, Reeves was serving as the chairman of the student life committee and helped host the largest blood drive in the history of the campus.

By the end of the year, after finding that he enjoyed being a part of the SGA, he decided to run for president and was elected for the 1994-1995 school year.

“It was just a really neat time in the history of the university,” he said. “We were starting to talk about going Division I in athletics, and we were really starting to grow.”

Not only did Reeves enjoy his time as SGA president; he said he also found a broadened perspective after leading and working on the behalf of 5,000 students from all over the world.

“I think, in retrospect, I really do believe that Jason was one of the most effective SGA leaders that we’ve had during the 28 years that I’ve been at Troy,” said Troy University’s Chancellor Jack Hawkins.

Hawkins described his relationship with Reeves as like that of a father and son, praising him for his responsiveness to students and their needs.

“What I remember best about Jason was that he was thoughtful and very deliberate,” Hawkins said. “He would wait until he had something meaningful to offer before he would say anything, and he had real good listening skills, which made him a good leader within the SGA.”

“I didn’t go out into the world,” Reeves said. “The world sort of came to me at Troy.”

After his yearlong term as SGA president, he found a well-paying job and, once again, took some time off from school, but he did not forget his allegiance to Troy.

“I realized that the reasons that I decided to stay in Troy were valid and that it was home and that if I wanted to stay in Troy, then I needed to get involved with the community,” he said.

In May 1996, Reeves announced he was running for Troy City Council. With the help of many of his Troy University friends, he was soon elected.

Even though he had not yet graduated from Troy, Reeves still gave credit to the university for inspiring him. He made connections in the university and gained an inside look at the largest employer in Troy. It was something he never could have found simply growing up in Troy, he said.

“From the very outset of my arrival at Troy, I’ve been very proud of the relationship we’ve shared with the community,” said Hawkins. “But I think Jason understood that, even as a student, and the importance of it.

“And that simply has evolved into public office where he serves today. He has a very in-depth understanding of the importance of good relationships.”

“While my degree didn’t necessarily influence my career, my time at Troy has definitely influenced my career in dealing and working with people,” Reeves said. “It absolutely made all the difference, being able to meet and interact with different people.

“That’s what’s so unique about Troy — all the international students, all the students from all over the country that come in. It really gives you, I think, a different flavor and a different experience than you get in some places. I really enjoyed that, and it made a lot of difference in my ability to have empathy and understanding and really being drawn towards service and the importance of that.”

After being elected to the City Council, Reeves continued his education, taking classes when he could, working toward a new goal of graduating before turning 30.

Even though he did not have many classes left, he explained it was still hard to find the time to take them while working and starting a family.

Reeves graduated with a criminal justice degree in December 2001, only a few months before he turned 30 in May 2002.

In 2012, after being on the Troy City Council for 16 years, Reeves was elected mayor of Troy.

“On a personal level, I think the city of Troy is very fortunate to have him in a leadership role, and I think that Troy University is certainly very fortunate to have him as a distinguished alumnus of our institution,” said Hawkins.

Reeves toured the university with his high school-aged son before the recent game against the University of South Alabama and recalled his time on campus.

“Walking through it as a parent now and seeing how far and how much it has grown since I was a student is really amazing,” he said. “It makes me really proud of my university and my community.”

Reeves encourages students to get involved on campus.

“I certainly learned in the classroom, but I learned a lot more in interacting with people in organizations, and that’s something that I really encourage people to do,” Reeves said. “It doesn’t have to be the student government, but get involved in an organization that you’re passionate about, and just say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”

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