Giving Her All at City Hall
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography (above) by Mike Force Photography
When officials with the City of Brunswick reached out to Regina McDuffie about taking the City Manager position in 2020 after former City Manager Jim Drumm resigned, she really wasn’t looking to make a move from her long-time position as Macon County Manager.
“I wasn’t really looking (to make a move) but had been ‘fishing’ to see what was out there. You don’t want to ‘catch’ something that you want to throw back. I was surprised when I got the call,” says the native of Macon, GA, whose husband works as an aerospace engineer at Gulfstream in Savannah. The unique opportunities the job offered were too much to resist, and Regina took on the new position in March 2020, making her the first woman to be permanently appointed to the job.
While starting a new job during a pandemic provided its own unique hurdles, she said her real initial challenge in moving to Brunswick was personal. “I lost my mom two weeks before I got here,” said the mother of three grown children. “She was my best friend. And a few weeks after I got here, I had to have treatment for my own medical condition. But the city staff, the city commissioners, everyone was tremendous. We have some wonderful employees.”
Unlike the mayor, the city manager “doesn’t make policies and stays out of politics, but makes sure the policies are working well. I kind of get down in the weeds, while the Mayor stays at the top. The Mayor is responsible for policy making.”
Regina first became interested in working in local government in 1987. “I was attending grad school at UGA when I started working for Clark County.” When she returned to her hometown of Macon, she went to work for the city, including a stint at the Macon Centraplex, helping bring in musical acts, trade shows and sporting events, including what was then the Macon Whoopee hockey franchise. When the opportunity arose to become a county manager, Regina jumped at the chance. “Macon County is rural with a low density of population and the biggest challenge there was road improvement. The county has 200 miles of dirt roads that get a lot of wear and tear from trucks.”
Regina thinks her years working in road improvement will serve her well in dealing with Brunswick’s unique issues—needed road improvements and the challenges caused by flooding and drainage issues. “We are also working on bringing in public transportation that is efficient, effective and sustainable and environmental issues so we can meet the needs of our citizens.”
Being able to make changes that positively impact the lives of people living in the community is what drives her. “I like getting things done that improve the community and the quality of life, like an improved drainage system. I think we are making things better, and I’m excited about improving our parks and the downtown squares.”
One of the first things she said she tackled was improving the city’s website. “It was so outdated and uninviting. It is a challenge to keep it updated, but it is important to get people engaged in the city’s business. Housing is one of the biggest issues in the city.” Regina added that a housing inventory will have a significant impact on how the city moves forward in improving housing and removing blighted areas. “We’re seeing more residential development, such as Perry Place, which has a lot of movement right now.”
Although therecent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the area has brought mask-wearing requirements back to city buildings, Regina wants to encourage mask wearing in public places “so we don’t have to shut down again. Some businesses couldn’t survive that again.” Despite the challenges of the past year, she is thoroughly enjoying her new home. “I love going to the beach on Jekyll, and I love spending time downtown. I really love music and especially enjoy the concerts that have been going on in the squares. I also used to play tennis a lot, and I’m going to see if pickleball is something I might be interested in,” she said, laughing. “And while COVID has kept me in more than I normally would be, I’m looking forward to getting out more and visiting with and speaking with our civic organizations.”
“I’ve definitely had a great welcoming to the community. I’ve had some great conversations and am looking forward to the future. We have a SPLOST vote coming up next year and hopefully that will get passed.” Even with a packed schedule, Regina will continue to make time for those around her that make running the city possible. “I love engaging with our employees and letting them know that I support their needs.”
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Mercer University; completed coursework in public administration at Georgia College and State University and business administration at the University of Georgia
Previous Experience: Worked for more than 20 years for the City of Macon, including as budget director and chief administrative officer, before serving as County Manager for Macon County for almost eight years.
Netflix and Chill: Regina calls herself a “Netflix junkie” who enjoys binge watching such shows as “Downton Abbey”, “Nurse Jackie” and “Dexter”.
Fur Kids: Shih Poos Gumbo and Beignet.
Personal Soundtrack: “I love country music, jazz and R & B—those are my three favorites.”
Wheels: “I want to get back to bike riding like I used to. Downtown Brunswick is perfect for bike riding.”
Presidential Visit: “Then President Clinton came to Macon while I was working for the city, and I got to see him at City Hall. He was larger than life.”