On Monday, Oct.21, a new face took charge at the Benton County Animal Shelter. Not just new to the shelter, but new to Benton County as well, Shelter Director Regina Grayer brings a great deal of knowledge and skills from her experiences outside our area.
A graduate of UT Martin with a degree in computer science, Grayer spent time in Texas, Germany, Guam, Massachusetts, and Hawaii before landing in Memphis for her high school years. The daughter of two Army veterans, strong organizational and time management skills and the ability to adapt come naturally to her.
During her years at UTM, Grayer was a pre-vet minor, taking many biology and zoology courses and even interning at a local veterinarian office for a year. Grayer noted, “I’ve always loved animals and had aspirations growing up to become a veterinarian. That never panned out for me, though, and I wound up in corporate America for 15 years.”
After college, Grayer landed a job as an executive assistant at an electrical engineering company in Dallas, Texas. Within two years, she was recruited by Walmart to be a systems administrator in their engineering department at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
“Working for large companies and advancing through the ranks afforded me the opportunity to grow and gain skillsets that have proved invaluable,” Grayer said. “I’ve spent years managing people and large projects, with a focus on process improvement and efficiency, which I think will all serve me well while facing the new challenges I will have stepping into the role of shelter director.”
Less than two months ago, Grayer, her husband James, and their two children, Aaliyah, 11, and Adrian, 5, returned to Tennessee to be closer to family. Grayer had decided to take a break from the corporate world to focus on the needs of her youngsters and her older parents and in-laws. Both her parents and in-laws live in Jackson, where the Grayers now reside.
Once in Jackson, Grayer found herself looking at jobs online. She explained, “I wasn’t looking for another career when I stumbled upon the posting for shelter director. As cliché as this might sound, when I saw it, read about it, spoke with the staff, and learned more about the role, I knew in my heart that this was what I wanted to do. It just felt right. I believe that my years of experience and love for all of God’s creatures will help me to succeed in this position.”
As time permits, Grayer related that she loves spending time with her family, cooking, reading, and running with her dog. While in Bentonville, she volunteered as a mentor for at-risk youth through Walmart, volunteered at the local Children’s Advocacy Center for kids suffering abuse, and also helped build homes through Habitat for Humanity. She is also a huge fan of and frequent donor to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Although Grayer’s parents have lived in Jackson for more than 20 years, where her mother is a USPS Postmaster and her father is a mail carrier, her family of four is not set on making Jackson their home. When they can find a property they love, they hope to move to Benton County. “My husband is a software engineer for Amazon working from home, so really, we can live anywhere,” Grayer said. “I am learning so many wonderful things about Benton County, and I believe this could be the right place for us.” Until they relocate, Grayer said she feels the daily 1-hour commute from Jackson to the animal shelter is well worth the trip.
“I subscribe to the notion that as long as you love your job, you’ll never really work a day in your life. I am driven always to leave anything I walk into better than how I found it, in any way that I possibly can,” she stressed. “I want to continue to build on the great things that have shaped the shelter into what it is today. I believe I can do that. I will do that – with an open heart, an open mind, and a smile.”