Ferndale High senior will represent 85,000 members of leadership development organization; Regli is second woman from Ferndale elected in California FFA’s 89 years
Before more than 7,000 attendees in the huge Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center’s Selland Arena Tuesday morning, Ferndale’s Genevieve Regli was all tears when retiring California FFA state officer and secretary Amanda Skidmore held up for the last time Regli’s Ferndale FFA blue and gold corduroy jacket to the crowd.
The Atwater FFA member then helped Regli into her new state officer jacket and presented the leadership organization’s new state secretary to a cheering crowd. Regli had beat the odds and had been named one of six state officers to represent the 83,000 member organization and travel throughout the state and nation promoting agriculture, connecting with industry officials and mentoring youth.
As Regli’s father Jim put it on Wednesday morning, “the drought is over.” He was referring to the fact that the North Coast Region — which Ferndale FFA is a part of and encompasses Humboldt, Del Norte, Sonoma, Solano, Alameda, Mendocino, and Lake Counties — hadn’t had a member elected to the prestigious state officer position in 11 years. Ferndale’s Elizabeth Titus was the last state officer from the North Coast Region and the first female elected from Ferndale. She was elected in 2006.
Regli’s election by the voting delegates at the 89th annual California FFA State Conference was at the conclusion of six days of competition, speeches and voting. She was named one of 45 finalists for six positions earlier in the month after tests and essays, and made the final cut of 12 on Monday after days of rigorous interviews.
An exhausted and ever-so-humble Genevieve Regli spoke to The Enterprise Wednesday morning after arriving home in Ferndale from Fresno at 3 am, having to ride across Hwy 36 due to the new slide on Hwy 101.
“For the past few years, I’ve come home from state conference sad every time because some of my best friends have lost,” said Regli. “You can picture winning, but I just can’t believe it.”
Regli said the support from fellow FFA members was “intense.
“I’m so grateful for everyone that was there for me,” she said. “It really hasn’t set in.”
Regli, two days after graduation from FHS, will move to the California FFA center in Galt to live with her team and travel the state for an entire academic year, providing leadership and training to the more than 85,000 student members of the organization. She will defer her enrollment at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for one year. Regli is currently finishing her year’s reign as District 1 Dairy Princess and said she has several more classroom visits scheduled and the dairy princess contest in May.
Father and dairyman Jim Regli said he was excited that California FFA will have someone representing them who “knows what’s going on in the dairy industry.
“The struggles that ag faces with regulation and the labor shortage,” he said. “The immigration issue — these are real people and lives we are talking about. If she can get that through to our leaders and other agencies throughout the state. Don’t just use people as a political basketball . . . let’s talk about how to engage youth that are lost out there . . . I think those are Genevieve’s strong points and she can articulate them.”
Immigration was the subject of one of Genevieve’s topics in her extemporaneous speaking competition during the conference. (She placed third in the state.)
“As the immigration population continues to rise, we need to make sure that minorities are represented in our organization,” she said. “It’s super important to make sure that everyone has a part in our organization.”
In addition, Genevieve said she spoke to what immigration reform should include.
“There needs to be a revision of the work visa program for agriculture,” she said, referring to the federal government’s H2-A worker-visa program.
Ferndale High School Principal Jack Lakin said there was a “definite buzz throughout the school” over the last two days as everyone learned about Regli’s advancement. He also spoke to the challenge of rising to a state officer position from a remote area such as Ferndale.
“Even as talented as many of our students are, there is a great challenge as far as our location to overcome,” said Lakin. “The fact that she overcame that further speaks to how dynamic she is as a person and how she has developed at Ferndale High School.”
Former Ferndale state officer and national officer Pete Giacomini, elected to represent California in 1973, also spoke to the obstacles of coming from a smaller region.
“It’s so much harder for kids from the North Coast Region to get elected, simply because it is, as it was when I ran, the smallest region in the state. Matched up opposite another candidate from one of the big three Central Valley regions and a North Coast kid is behind from the beginning against a base of votes in opposition that is hard to overcome. I don’t know who Gen ran against, but she was one with enough talent to overcome that.”
In a memo issued to Ferndale Unified School District staff on Tuesday afternoon, Lakin stated: “This is a tremendous honor for Genevieve, the Regli family, our school and community. This achievement reflects her dedicated work ethic and commitment to family, FFA, the agricultural community, extra-curricular activities and academic success. We are all extremely proud of her.”
Prior to Titus’s election as the California FFA state reporter 11 years ago — she is now an editor for Bloomberg in Manhattan, NYC — Blake Alexandre, a local dairyman, was elected to a state officer position in 1980. Henry Giacomini, a rancher, was elected in 1975. Pete Giacomini, a senior vice president for business development at Cooperative Resources International in Madison, Wisconsin, was elected in 1973.
Meanwhile, Genevieve’s younger brother, Dominic, placed second in the state in the FFA Creed competition. Ferndale FFA member Brandon Brazil won the state proficiency in forage production. “It’s just really great to see great kids from great families like the Reglis in small towns like Ferndale be rewarded this way,” said Pete Giacomini.
(Disclosure: Elizabeth Titus is the daughter of Enterprise publisher and editor Caroline Titus.)