Construction News Spotlight – Anita Kegley, President, Kegley Inc

Spotlight – Anita Kegley, President, Kegley Inc

imageAnita Kegley started her own general contracting company, Kegley Inc., 33 years ago.

SAN ANTONIO – Since 1983, Anita Kegley has been running her own general contracting company, Kegley Inc. She built her foundation in the industry working with her husband at the time who did insurance repair work and started Kegley Inc. after their divorce. A few years ago, she founded Construction Zone.co and is a board member for the organization.

Describing herself as a very transparent person, Kegley, who turns 60 in October, is a no-nonsense, straight shooter, speaking openly about her life and business. She notes that what is most important to her is that what is said is the truth. She wants people to show her who they are by their actions, but we asked her to show us in words by sharing her story.

Where are you from originally?
I was actually born in Morehead, KY, and when I was about 2 or 3, I moved to Ohio where I was raised. I got to Texas as quickly as I could – by way of Florida. I lived in Florida for about a year, and then Houston from ’77 to ’79, and then came to San Antonio in 1979.
My husband at the time brought me to San Antonio, and he introduced to the construction business.

What did you do before getting your start in the construction industry?
I started out in accounting. My very first job was doing payroll for 500 people. When I was in high school in Ohio, I went to school half a day and worked part of the day, doing accounting. Then, I worked for a CPA after that. I’m really good with numbers.
Then, when I went to Houston, I changed fields. I went into the medical sales field, and I was a sales coordinator doing bidding on medical products. I did that until I moved to San Antonio, and then I started construction, because that’s what my husband did.
And that’s where I am today, because I love it. I love being able to build stuff and see what you do instead of working through a pile of paperwork. This is what you did, and it’s there forever, until someone tears it down.

What prompted you to start your own company?
When I divorced [her husband at the time], I went into sales for a floor covering company from ’82 to ’83, and they terminated me. It was in the era when construction was going down.
It was unfortunate that they had terminated me, because I had gone to my brother’s funeral. He was 12 years old, and he was the victim of a violent crime and murdered. So his funeral was on Thursday. I went to Ohio, and I didn’t come back to work on Friday, and that’s why they fired me, because I stayed the weekend to be with my family.
So, Monday, when I got back, I thought, “Well, this is crappy. I’m just not going to work for anybody else anymore. I’ll just start my own company.” When you work really hard, and you get terminated – and I know that there were other contributing factors. It wasn’t all me. It was the economy at that time, and so maybe this was just an excuse where they could fire me. It’s all hindsight. It’s history.

What was most challenging part of starting your own general contracting company as a woman in 1983?
Being young and a white woman in a majority Hispanic community, and then credibility. Because a woman in construction? Even today, after being in business 33 years, I still have that same issue that I had when I started.
Women are a little bit more acceptable in the construction industry [today]. But it doesn’t bother me. I still take a man when I go – because men in the construction industry give you credibility whether they know anything or not.
I’ve proven that over and over again, because I purposely sometimes just take a man who doesn’t know anything about construction, and I take him to the jobsite, and the people will ask questions of the man, even though I’m the one answering it. Then they’ll listen to my answer, and then they’ll go back to the man. It’s just what they do. It’s just like if you had a man in the nursery business. It’s just a stereotype thing.

What has your life been like outside of work?
My faith is very strong. I’m a Christian, and I’m on fire for God, and with everything that I do, I let the Lord guide me, and more so in probably the last five years, just because I’ve been through a lot of different personal issues.
In 2014, my ex-husband died of cancer in March, and then two of my sisters died of breast cancer at 53 and 54, and then I divorced my husband at the end of the year and moved away from him. So, 2014 was bad. When you do have tragedies like that in your life, your faith increases.
I was involved in [the National Association of] Women in Construction (NAWIC) a lot during those years, and I did a lot of community service. Probably in 1992, I was on 13 different boards of directors.

What are you doing these days?
Currently, I just recently got my PPO – my personal protective officer – so I’m a bodyguard licensed in the State of Texas. I’m proficient with my Glock 27 and my .357 Magnum, and I really like that.
I actually started that – because I had my handgun license – I volunteered as security for my church that I was attending at that time. After seven months of being with that church, they told me that if I was on the security team, I was going to watch the pastor’s wife. That was going to be my duty, and how I do everything, regardless if it’s personal or business or whatever, I always do the best, because that’s what the Bible says to do.
When I volunteered for security at this church, they said, “Well, you need to have your Level 2, 3 and 4.” Level 3 is a security guard, so I am a security guard licensed in the state, and then I’m also a personal protective officer, which is the next level, Level 4. I needed to do that and get that training to be able to volunteer. I spent several thousand dollars, took a week off my construction work to do that last year, and then did my PPO Level 4 this year.
But last year, as I was doing this, they told me that I was too much of a liability for them. So, they fired me from my volunteer position. I don’t know why, but I just dusted off my feet and went back to my other church that I belong to, Cornerstone. I haven’t volunteered there yet in that capacity, because I’ve got too much on my plate right now, but that’s probably my next step.
In the meantime, I go to the gun range regularly, so that I can be able to be proficient in shooting my Glock. I just want to be prepared.
In 2013, I started Construction Zone.co, and that organization is all about developing people and their companies. I’m hoping that it will develop more this year and really take off.
I’m also involved in [the University of the] Incarnate Word (UIW), and I’ve been involved raising funds for scholarships, and I’ve been on the development board.

Did you attend Incarnate Word?
No, I went to UTSA here. But I never finished my associate’s degree. When I found out that the professor was making less money than I was already making, I was thinking, “And he’s got a PhD? I’m already making more than him, and I don’t even have my associate’s?” It’s all about work ethics. So, I just left. But my son graduated from UIW.
But I knew Dr. Lou Agnese [president of UIW] from the North Chamber [of Commerce]. I was the chairman of the North Chamber in 1992. He was the chairman of the chamber, and I was the chairman-elect. So I got to know him really well in 1992, and the North Chamber at that time was operating on a shoestring. So, we met on a weekly basis. Even though I was volunteering, I got a lot of inspiration and knowledge just from how he managed and ran the North Chamber or helped in his volunteer capacity.
I substituted a lot for him, and I had a lot of cool things. Because Kelly Air Force Base was a part [of the chamber], I got to go on a trip to New Mexico and to Colorado Springs and got a private tour of NORAD, which was two miles underground, and had I not been in that leadership capacity, I would never have gotten that opportunity. We got a private tour and watched a stealth fighter. I even sat in one.
I got to meet the Queen of England that year, because she visited San Antonio. So, I’ve been blessed a lot in my lifetime. In the volunteer things that I do, I’ve just done so many cool things.

What other community organizations are you involved with?
Another organization that is dear to my heart that I work with is Dress for Success. Coming from a family of limited income and limited means, I grew up pretty basic. In high school, my mother couldn’t even afford a telephone. I kind of watched the kids at night while my mom worked second shift. I think that’s why I grew up so young.
I was a board member [for Dress for Success] for several years, but now I’m just in an advisory capacity. Right now, I have obligated myself to do an annual golf tournament through Construction Zone.co and Kegley Inc. – I did my first one this year, Apr. 1, and then raised funds for Dress for Success, because Dress for Success not only helps women, it helps them up. It doesn’t hand out or give to them. It helps them get back in the workplace.
That’s close to my heart. I know a lot of women come from abusive families. My first and second husband both beat me where I had bruises and had to go to the hospital. I feel for women like that who can’t get out. I’m a strong woman, and I weathered that, but some women aren’t, and they stay in those relationships forever. Dress for Success is an opportunity to help them get out of that situation. Plus, women that have made wrong decisions and ended up in prison and women off the street.

Tell me about your son.
When I had my child, I was a single mom. I purposely had a baby, because I’d been married three times at 36, and I thought, “Who needs a man, right?” Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a father on his birth certificate, but one of the men that I married fathered him. So, I was thankful that he helped to raise him.
Anthony Matthew Kegley. I am so proud of him, and he has worked on and off with me in my business, a little bit here, a little bit there. Not on a regular basis, just helping out, doing some accounting, doing labor clean up on a few jobs.
He was born in 1992. I was the chairman of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce at that time. I had wanted to get pregnant. I had tried, and after being married three times at 36, I thought, “Why do I need a man?” Obviously, I need a man to help, but that man helped me, and he signed away all of his rights.
So, when Matthew was born, being a single mom, at first, I couldn’t find a daycare center to help him. I never thought that I would stay at home. Obviously, I have to support myself. So, I actually transported my mom from Ohio, and for 11 months, she came down and helped me raise him. She would take care of him while I worked during the day, and then when I got home at night, I would take care of him. That was a real blessing.
I’ve always made time for him, and it was challenging. But I planned it that way. At that time, my Christian faith wasn’t that strong. I had a good foundation, but I was more about my flesh and what I wanted, not what the Lord wanted, and I know children need a father. So, when Matthew was 2, I did marry, and that man fathered him even though he wasn’t his biological father.
That man passed away in 2014, and so that was hard for my son. But he was very Christian-based, and I was fortunate that my son got that Christian base from him and myself.
Matthew completed a five-year program at UIW, and at 21, had his master’s degree. Now, he’s working for Argo International, doing senior level accounting and all their 10K reporting for all their U.S. companies. My son’s doing that at his very first job. He’s been there a little over a year. I’m surprised that he went into accounting, but I always encouraged him to do whatever it was that would make him happy. –mh

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