By Ashley McLeod
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – More than a year before last November’s elections, Spotsylvania County insurance agent Bryce Reeves started campaigning for the 17th Senate District seat. A lot of people figured he would need more than an early start: Reeves, a Republican who had never held elective office, was challenging Edd Houck, a Democrat who had held the Senate seat since 1984.
But on Election Day, Reeves won – by 226 votes. His victory helped tip the balance of power in the Senate from a Democratic majority to Republican control.
As his first legislative session enters its final weeks, Reeves has enjoyed numerous successes: Of 14 bills he sponsored, nine passed the Senate – and six of them have passed the House as well.
Thanks to his efforts, Virginia likely will require insurers to tell homeowners whether their policies cover earthquakes; require government agencies to cooperate on dam safety; and continue to exempt textbooks from the sales tax.
“I worked really hard and met a lot of people, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve,” Reeves said in a recent interview in his office in the General Assembly Building. “It’s an amazing and unique process.”
Senate District 17 includes Fredericksburg and Orange County and parts of Culpeper, Albemarle, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties. Reeves lives in Spotsylvania with his wife, Anne, and their two children, Nicole and Jack.
Reeves has lived in Virginia for 18 years but grew up in Houston. He attended Texas A&M University, graduating in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial education.
After college, Reeves accepted a commission as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where he completed 13 years of service. He eventually became captain and served as a U.S. Army Ranger.
While at Fort Benning, Ga., Reeves was recognized as the Enlisted Honor Graduate by the U.S. Army Airborne Paratrooper School. He also received a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University in 1998.
Reeves accepted a position with the Prince William County Police, working as a detective in the vice and narcotics bureau. He served on a drug task force for Northern Virginia and Maryland and became an expert on illicit drugs.
In the Senate, Reeves has been assigned to four committees: General Laws and Technology; Privileges and Elections; Rehabilitation and Social Services; and Courts of Justice. He believes his military and law enforcement experience gives him extra insight on legislative issues.
“I feel I have a better understanding when it comes to certain bills, like in the Courts of Justice (Committee) – being able to understand rules of evidence and articulate a different viewpoint than maybe a trial attorney, or maybe someone else who’s never arrested anybody or served overseas would have,” Reeves said.
“And it’s due to my experience in the Army and police force.”
Reeves said one of his priorities is veterans’ issues. He sponsored a bill (SB 254) to increase the number of agents handling veterans’ disability claims in the Virginia Department of Veterans Services; it has passed the Senate and is on track for final approval.
Both the House and Senate have passed Reeves’ measure (SB 433) to require funeral directors to notify the Department of Veterans Services about unclaimed cremated remains; the department then would determine whether the “cremains” belong to a veteran eligible for burial in a veterans’ cemetery.
Passing state laws is a long way from Reeves’ start in politics. In 2007, frustrated by government, he ran for a seat on the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
“They say, ‘Stop complaining, get involved,’ ” Reeves said. “So I ran, and I lost, which was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Having little background in politics, Reeves decided to get more education. He was accepted into and completed the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Political Leaders Program in 2009; he was even selected as class president.
So Reeves was ready when he challenged Houck, who ranked third in seniority in the Senate, was a state budget negotiator and chaired the Senate Education and Health Committee.
According to Reeves, his team made more than 166,000 phone calls, knocked on more than 39,000 doors and raised more than $1 million during the campaign.
The Senate race was so close that there was almost a recount. In the end, Houck conceded. The official results showed Reeves with 22,615 votes and Houck with 22,389.
“We created a vision that people saw and they felt part of,” Reeves said. “It’s just a matter of working hard and putting sweat equity into it. It doesn’t matter what you have in your bank account or what pedigrees or degrees you have on the wall. If you have a servant heart, you can do anything. You can be anything you want to be.”
About Sen. Bryce Reeves
Born: Nov. 28, 1966, in California
Education: Texas A&M University (B.S.); George Mason University (M.P.A., Public Administration); University of Virginia, Sorenson Political Leaders Program
Profession: President of Bryce Reeves Insurance and Financial Services Inc.; president of Reeves Asset Management Group
Senate District: 17, which includes Fredericksburg and Orange County and parts of Culpeper, Albemarle, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties
Political party: Republican
Phone numbers: 804-698-7517 (Richmond); 540-891-5473 (district office)