Regina Gargano, executive director of Explore Schuylkill since 2009, is a lifelong resident of Schuylkill County, mother of four and grandmother of two, and is married to Edward Fredericks. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Penn State University and an MBA from Misericordia University. She serves on the boards of Schuylkill County’s VISION, Friends of Schuylkill Parks and Recreation, Schuylkill County Historical Society, the coordination committee for Pottsville’s Continued Progress Project and volunteers for a variety of nonprofits throughout Schuylkill County.
Q: What’s the most underrated aspect of county tourism?
A: The most underrated aspect of county tourism is what it is and does as an industry for its community and its potential for us. In communities around the world, tourism is generating more employment opportunities, increasing personal income and tax revenue and improving living standards. It increases job diversity and quality of life; can restore historic sites and structures, improve parks, outdoor recreation and our natural environment. It increases entrepreneurship and small business diversity and growth. It increases investment opportunities. It increases collaborative opportunities, cultural preservation and authenticity and community engagement. It requires improved infrastructure. The elements that create a multidimensional outdoor recreation and heritage destination also create an attractive, thriving community. I firmly believe the tourism industry has not been sufficiently researched and valued as an economic lever in our county and therefore has vast untapped potential for us. That’s its most underrated aspect.
Q: Where is the best view in Schuylkill County?
A: There are so many. Truly. How could it be otherwise in a mountainous region with almost 800 square land miles that’s 60% forested? And I certainly haven’t seen them all either. I will say I love the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain. I also love to see it from the air with Mr. Willard of the Schuylkill County Airport; their aerial tours are fabulous.
Q: What is your favorite season and why?
A: My favorite season is summer. I’m a huge fan of blue skies, sunshine, hot temperatures and all the color and growing. Green grass, lush trees, flowers and veggies growing. Summer is definitely my favorite season.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The people. First, I work with great people at Explore Schuylkill. Top-notch folks. Then, as the designated tourism promotion agency for our county, we get to work with many, many kinds of cool organizations. Art centers, historical societies, restaurants, attractions, parks, wineries, breweries, outdoor organizations of every kind, hotels, inns, B&Bs, museums, event committees; just so many different and interesting organizations and people. It’s never dull, never the same day twice. The learning opportunity alone is pretty incredible. And the visitors, too. The visitors are awesome! Think about it; they’re coming here with an intrigue. There’s something they want to see or experience. They’re interested in us enough to spend money and time here and that’s a big deal. They’re curious and have great attitudes. With every visitor interaction, we see our community through new lenses and that is a great gift. Believe me, it truly is. Sometimes, as residents, we get jaded and all we see is what’s missing or what is wrong. Visitors see what’s here as valuable and they see it with positive energy and I have to say that perspective makes a tremendous difference in a work life and a personal one.
Q: If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?
A: This is such a hard one! I have a long list and they’re not in any particular order. Greece and Israel rank high though, very high. I love ancient places.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
A: This is another question that could have a million answers. Really. I’ve been blessed with a lot of wonderful people and experiences thus far in my life and so I’ve received a great deal of valuable advice for lots of different situations and aspects of life. But the best advice, no matter what role I’m in or with whom, has been love others. Period.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: For the record, I thought long and hard about this question. (LOL) I think we all try to keep some balance and separation between work life and home. This is practical and makes sense. We are not what we do to earn money and earn a living. No way. On the other hand, we do see the world as we are since there is no other possibility and we do bring ourselves into our jobs. That being said, the most challenging part of my job for me is political relationships. They are integral to tourism. They are integral to its industry. It’s no secret that our national (and therefore our state and local) political environment has been difficult and challenging for the last decade. The pandemic has brought additional challenges in this past year and will continue to do so. Taken altogether, it is a difficult area to navigate for all of us but it is critical and necessary to do our best and I’m hopeful.
Q: What is your favorite movie? TV show?
A: This is another hard one. There are tons of great movies I love. My favorite is probably “Good Will Hunting.” I don’t do much TV anymore. I don’t even know what’s on these days, although I understand there’s a lot of great historical fiction programming in recent years and I love history so I think I’d enjoy them if I ever get around to watching them. I have always loved “MASH” and probably always will.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: Reading and researching. Cooking, baking, gardening. A little kayaking. Some writing. Nothing fancy, I’m pretty boring.
Q: What is your favorite way to relax?
A: Listening to music.
Q: What’s your favorite destination outside of Schuylkill County?
A: Stone Harbor, New Jersey, is our traditional family vacation spot. It’s a regular relaxing Jersey beach experience. My family has been going there for three generations before me and it’s a place of many treasured memories for me. We continue to go there each year and I hope my grandkids will have fond memories with their cousins and family in their hearts, too, someday.
Q: If you could change one thing about this area, what would it be?
A: The resistance to change, to trying something new. If feel if we could just start with that, so much would work out.