■ BY SUE ERWIN
His father, an avid boater and fisherman, started bringing him to the island 25 years ago.
“We used to vacation here, and then my dad bought a place here in the 1990s. My brothers and I grew up spending long weekends fishing here,” he said.
Pearce has two younger brothers: Bryan is 41 and lives in Minneapolis, and Russell is 39 and lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “Interestingly, our birthdates are all within a week of each other in November,” Pearce said.
Pearce was born in Orlando, and his family has a long history in Florida.
“I am a sixth-generation Floridian. My roots on my dad’s side of the family can be traced back to around the founding of Tampa Bay in the mid-19th century. And my great grandfather on my mom’s side was the mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1920s,” he said. Pearce attended school in Orange County.
Growing up, his father, Gregory Presnell, worked as a lawyer in Orlando and his mom, Patricia Presnell, was a teacher. They divorced when he was a teenager. His mother’s maiden name was Pearce, which is subsequently how he earned his name.
Pearce’s dad Gregory is currently a federal judge in central Florida and is married to Cecelia Bonifay, an attorney in Orlando who specializes in land use and real estate law. His dad owns a place in Grande Quay in Boca Grande but is presently on a year-long boat trip sailing up the east coast, visiting Canada and then coming back down the Mississippi River.
“I’ve always been interested in living in Boca Grande full time, so when it became an option, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get out of the big city and experience island life,” Pearce said. Pearce attended Florida State University in Tallahassee and earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in real estate. Then he attended graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville and earned a master’s degree in real estate and urban analysis.
He said one of the first questions people ask when they learn about the schools he attended is, “Which team do you root for during sporting events?” To this day, he said, he is an FSU ‘Noles fan through and through. “I like the Gators, but my heart is with my undergrad school,” he said. He studied abroad in London during his sophomore year in college. “I had a blast! That was really an exciting experience, to live and study in such a vibrant, world-class city. I still enjoy following British politics and culture,” he said.
He’s worked in commercial real estate for his entire career, doing mortgage lending, commercial appraisals, investment consulting and sales. For the past 12 years he has focused on commercial brokerage.
He currently works for Walker and Dunlap. The company is based in Maryland, and Pearce works from his home office from the island. “The group that I work for specializes in brokering apartment communities. I’ve been involved in apartment sales throughout the southeast, including high-rise properties in several major cities,” he said.
Pearce said he is interested in learning more about island real estate and is looking forward to meeting some of the brokers. “From a real estate standpoint, it seems very unique here, and I’m anxious to learn more about it.”
He said that although math is a big part of his work, when it comes down to determining the market value of a building, you also have to be a pretty good writer, because the investment packages created for the transactions can get very lengthy and detailed. “It really comes down to identifying and understanding the market economics, demographics and other growth factors where the properties exist to determine value and make a sale happen,” he said.
Pearce’s wife, Ellen, commutes to her job in Fort Myers at LeeSar/Cooperative Services of Florida, a medical supply company that serves Lee County and Sarasota County health systems. She does supply chain management on large hospital projects. They lived in Orlando for ten years before moving here in June. As a result of his father’s travel excursions, Pearce and Ellen are living on the island with their daughter, Page, who is in 4th grade at The Island School.
“Page’s transition to The Island School this year has been wonderful, and she has already made many new friends. It’s also pretty cool to be able to pick her up from school in a golf cart,” he said. Peace and Ellen met at an election-night party in Orlando in 2000, which also happened to be his birthday.
“We were introduced through a good common friend,” he said. “I’ll never forget the day we met, because it was the year they couldn’t announce who won the election because of the uncertainty of the final vote count in Florida.” They were married at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in October 2002. “We had about 50 family and close friends come out to Vegas to celebrate with us,” Pearce said.
Pearce said his family loves living in Boca Grande with their golden retriever, Cassie. “She’s a devoted part of our family and at times can be a real bed-hog,” he said.
Pearce’s old college roommate from FSU, Roger Chapin, has a place in Boca Grande, so they get together on the island whenever possible to go fishing or grab drinks.
When he is not working, he enjoys playing golf, fishing and boating, both locally and in the Everglades or Mosquito Lagoon. When he was growing up, his family would take sailing trips to the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas during the summer. They would also go scalloping near Homosassa. He enjoys traveling. He said fall is his favorite time of year because of his love for college football and the cooler weather.
“We usually take a trip to New York City each fall to explore the city and see the leaves change in Central Park,” he said. While he never played football, he was a competitive swimmer in high school. He is a big John Steinbeck fan, and one of his favorite books is “The Grapes of Wrath.” He said the person he admires the most in life is his father, “who has been a great role model.”
Pearce and Ellen recently took Page to her first FSU game in Tallahassee during the weekend of Thanksgiving, when the Seminoles beat the Gators. Pearce’s family recently joined the Boca Grande Club and are looking forward to using the facilities and meeting other members.
He also has a keen interest in racing cars. Over the last five years he has helped his father and a group of friends in Orlando build a race car and field a team. “Our team is called Level One Racing, and we’ve entered the car in multiple endurance races throughout the southeast, including Daytona, Sebring, Virginia International and others. Our longest and most difficult event was a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway that lasted 24 hours straight. We used a rotating team of six drivers, including myself, and six crew members. We’ve never won a race, but we’ve come close several times and hope to break through to our first victory this upcoming New Year’s Eve at a 10-hour race at Sebring,” Pearce said.