On January 6th, 2022, the industry lost a workforce advocate – Mel Reeves. Mel was a social justice champion and advocate for equality within this industry. I first began working with Mel within months of starting with AWC. For over a decade we have been on committees together including the MnDOT Collaborative and Leadership team, CCLRT oversight committee, US Bank Stadium Equity committee, and the SWLRT Advisory Council.
To say I learned a lot from Mel would be an understatement. The two committees in the early days were at times combative and chaotic with raised voices and defensiveness. But amongst the chaos Mel, like me, would listen to all sides but when he spoke his message was a mix of demands for change and story telling to make those of us understand the experiences of his community.
Mel moved the dial for workforce inclusion for minorities, while I would focus on women and minority owned businesses. We had the same goals but a different lens on getting there. I remember a few times where he or I would be giving a push on an issue for change. We would catch each other’s eyes and he would smile across the table. I knew he was ready to back me up and he would. We found a way to message what the other was saying so it could be heard differently.
I told a colleague that Mel and I didn’t always see eye to eye. She said “He was always beaming when you presented a different perspective as I think he knew you and he were sharing the same goals but may have different ways to get there. I know he adored you”
I am reminded often that one of the benefits to being an AWC member is the peer support—knowing you are not on an island alone. Last week, the world of women and minority advocacy in this industry just got a little lonelier. RIP my friend.