This month’s vote to appoint yet another woman as the University of West Florida’s next president came as a shock to old rich white men throughout Northwest Florida.
Many of them had expected the job to be given to fellow old rich white man Don Gaetz despite his lack of qualifications for the position.
Speaking to reporters from the lavish throne room at the Lewis Bear Company headquarters in Pensacola, Lewis Bear, Jr. said following the vote that he was “shocked and in disbelief” that he hadn’t gotten his way.
“Old rich white men like Don and I have been getting our way for as long as this country’s been around,” said Bear, a beer distributor whose family has been getting Pensacola drunk for more than a century. “It’s as American as a Bud Light Lime.”
Cracking the top on a cold one, Bear took a moment to note that his family’s company is the exclusive regional distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, available at fine bars across the Gulf Coast.
Pacing back and forth as he tried to make sense of it all, Bear said he couldn’t remember the last time he felt this way. “It’s the darnedest thing,” said Bear. “I don’t know how we didn’t see this coming. It’s just not fair.”
Bear continued to ramble on after everyone but this correspondent had left the room. “Don Gaetz is a good and humble man. The Gaetz family has always done what I’ve asked. And now we have people out here trying to assassinate his character. I’ve spent an unusual amount of time reading books about how the red Chinese brainwashed people and I think that’s exactly what’s happened here.”
For decades, Bear and other old white men have given tens of thousands of dollars to area political campaigns, using those donations to exert influence over elected officials and manipulate outcomes at the local, regional, and even state level. Bear said Friday that he’s most hurt by the division — or as he puts it, “treason” — that emerged within the good old boy community over the UWF presidency vote.
Bear points to a wide-ranging conspiracy against Gaetz, orchestrated by Governor Rick Scott, a fellow old rich white man, and supported by attorney Jim “Big Stuff” Reeves, an old rich white man and founder of Pensacola’s Irish Politicians Club, the private club where Pensacola’s good ol’ boy community has discussed corrupt schemes for decades.
Other local good ol’ boys were left wondering how they fit into the new landscape.
“I’m really just trying to put this all together,” said old rich white man and longtime Bear ally Collier Merrill.
Speaking from his office high atop Seville Tower in downtown Pensacola, Merrill repeatedly said that he was “just so damn confused.” Behind Merrill’s desk, framed photographs and awards had been removed overnight and replaced with an elaborate web of hastily printed photos of Saunders, Gaetz, Governor Scott, and other figures, interconnected by string and thumbtacks.
“Is there someone I forgot to write a check to?” Merrill wondered aloud, before reminding a reporter for the eighth time that Seville Tower was once the tallest building in Florida.
“We need to think about what we’re teaching our youth,” Bear said loudly, waving the business end of a cane back and forth in the air. “I’ve lived through the civil rights stuff and women’s lib and now we’ve got gay marriage and the whole Black Lives Matter thing.”
“Do we really want to live in a world where old rich white men don’t get their way?” Bear asked. “I don’t.”