More to Audrey Regnery than meets the eye: ‘I feel I can take anything on’
“I’m not afraid to take on a challenge,” says Audrey Regnery, innkeeper of the Greenfield Inn Bed and Breakfast in Washington, who has announced her bid for the Hampton District Board of Supervisors’ seat being vacated by John Lesinski. “Nothing is really too much for me, I feel I can take anything on. And I’m going to keep at it until I get it done. That’s normally what I do.”
After learning of Regnery’s intriguing past — one seldom shared — who are we to argue?
“I’ve been here 45 years. I originally came to Virginia in 1968 and moved here in ’74. I’ve lived in Culpeper, Madison, Orange, and now Rappahannock,” she says. “I’ve watched Culpeper go from a little farming community town to one of the ten fastest growing small towns in America.”
For starters she became a hairdresser, “but I realized my salary wasn’t going to sustain me. I was a single mom, two kids. I had to go to where the money is.”
Where the men were, in other words. And they weren’t sure what to make of Audrey.
“My next job was with a company that buried telephone cable. So I dug ditches for a living,” she says, matter-of-factly. “They taught me how to operate a backhoe, they taught me how to operate a bulldozer. We worked every single day regardless of the weather — 20 degrees above zero to 20 below, it didn’t matter. Snowing, raining or sleeting.”
The money was good, but a roof called. She spotted a help-wanted ad for Old Dominion Manufacturing, a Culpeper-based company that built trash truck bodies (the factory stood where Kohl’s and Walmart is today).
“They were willing to train welders for the job,” she says. “I was the only woman in the entire place. I was told my eyes were too blue, that the flash burn would bother them. And it did. I was told my skin was too fair, that it was going to burn. And it did. But I started the next Monday in the welding class. Within a week they’d moved me onto the floor welding ejector panels inside the trucks.”
For Regnery, it was not the most pleasant of work environments.
“My first day on the job the supervisor came up and said you have no business being here, you’re a woman, and I’m going to do everything in my power to see that you’re gone — and you’ll be gone within a week,” she recalls him saying. “After five years I got an apology from the same guy.”
She would move from welding into the machine shop, and from there into hydraulics and mechanics. Years later she drove a school bus, and led the animal breeding department for a Madison farming operation. She would pursue an education after her children were grown, graduating Cum Laude with an Associate Degree in Business and a major in Accounting — the first person in her family to earn a college diploma.
And while working for the farm she would meet her future husband, Al Regnery, a lawyer, author, former publisher and legal counsel on Capitol Hill, appointed by President Reagan to a senior post in the Justice Department. He is co-chair of United Citizens of Rappahannock (UCOR).
Audrey has since been active in county and government affairs, with a particular focus on the Rappahannock business community and hospitality sector.
“I want to protect our way of life here,” she says of the importance of tourism. “We have a beautiful county, we don’t want to ruin it.”
So why a seat on the Board of Supervisors, where her lone challenger to date is Harris Hollow resident Keir Whitson, a former vice chairman of the Rappahannock Water and Sewer Authority?
“It’s the lack of leadership that we have in the government,” Regnery replies without hesitating. “We have great people — the treasurer [Debra Knick] is wonderful — who are below the supervisors. Our supervisors just don’t have the leadership that we need, and I’m hoping to bring that to the table.
“I don’t think that they are able to be cooperative with each other, and you have to have a team, you have to work together as a team, to get things done. And we just don’t have that.”
On that note, she is encouraging women like her to become candidates to potentially fill two additional seats on the BOS.
“I think we have the necessary things to make the changes we need,” she says. “It’s just going to take someone who has a creative mind, someone who is willing to think outside the box and come up with solutions. I don’t think it’s rocket science. I certainly don’t want to see a beautiful Rappahannock change to something like Culpeper — there’s a prime example.”
In her campaign platform, Regnery states in writing: “We are at a pivotal time in Rappahannock County. Many key issues that affect our quality of life need to be addressed thoroughly and effectively.” In doing so, she would be dedicated to:
- Building a BOS that is organized, efficient, and consists of fair, open-minded, creative, powerful thinkers, a Board that will anticipate the challenges that we face moving forward and offer solutions that benefit all of our citizens.
- Ensuring that BOS meetings are focused, productive, conducted with civility and ethical behavior, include robust debate, and result in actionable solutions.
- Cultivating and maintaining a strong, thriving business community that will spark growth, strengthen our local economy, entice young entrepreneurs to move to the community, and help shape our community’s positive and vibrant future.
- Securing Rural Broadband that is essential for businesses to support ecotourism; enable school children to do their school work at home rather than at the library; provide public safety for those who rely on the internet for cell service; enable telehealth for our elderly residents who can’t drive to medical appointments; and facilitate telecommuting so our working people won’t have to commute out of the county every day.
- Ensuring that fire and rescue departments are properly equipped and staffed to handle the community’s emergencies effectively and efficiently.
- Making sure our Crisis Management Organization has what it needs to keep our community safe in the event of a disaster.
- Creating affordable housing that attracts a better and stronger workforce of all ages to our community and provides for aging residents who currently live in isolated areas and can no longer take care of their homes yet want to remain in the county.
- Developing a plan to address the declining enrollment in our schools by making our area more enticing, friendly, and welcoming so young couples will want to come here and raise their families.