Irene Insignares has the distinction of being one of only a handful of female presidents in the history of NESPA’s Board of Directors. “I think there have been a couple before me. They were ground breaking,” Insignares said. She paused, then added, “It’s a man’s world.”

Indeed, but inroads have been made over the years, with female members in prominent roles at the Northeast Spa & Pool Association at regional and chapter levels, as well as on the board itself. Still, the top post is nothing to sneeze at, and Insignares, who’s also co-owner of Cool Pool & Spa Inc. in Nanuet, N.Y., is going forward toward her goals.

Having now transitioned from NESPA board vice president to president, Insignares hopes to implement some changes. For example, she’d like to see member segments move from their own agendas to having everyone on the same page. And she’s concerned that more younger people aren’t coming up in the ranks. “Maybe they don’t see the value in being involved in NESPA, but it’s a huge opportunity,” Insignares said. She said she enjoys the camaraderie and the rewarding feeling that comes from giving back to the industry.

Her own love for the pool and spa industry clearly runs deep. Like many, the 42-year veteran sort of fell into the business. “Nobody grows up thinking, ‘I want to be a pool girl,’” Insignares said. When she went to Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., she majored in math. While she didn’t obtain a degree, she later went to 10 other colleges, picking up credits that applied to work she was doing. For example, she wrote the computer program that ran her company’s office; later they bought a system. “You learn what you have to learn for the industry,” Insignares said.

Her entry into that industry was serendipitous: She was working in a dentist’s office when a pool business next door went up for sale. Her employer alerted Irene and her husband, Mando ... and soon they became business owners. Irene’s company title is secretary/treasurer; Mando is president; and son Michael is vice president. Daughter Julie handled computer work for a number of years before taking another job.

The family business designs and builds pools more in the $80,000 to $300,000 range in three counties. It also does pool renovation and service. Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been celebrity clients. For example, Irene Insignares said, they built a pool for the U2 drummer, Larry Mullen Jr., and they vacuum the pool of comedian/actress Rosie O’Donnell.

Of Insignares’ current duties, she said, “I run the show in the office. I used to open and close pools, and do vacuuming for a long time. I never ask my employees to do something I wouldn’t do myself.” Then she related with some amusement that, as a woman, she still encounters some preconceived notions. “I get callers saying, ‘Could you put a technician on the line?’ They don’t know I trained the technicians.”

Insignares said the pool business is a 24/7 job that fits her Type A personality. “I think I’m one of the luckiest people on Earth to make this work,” she said. “It’s a difficult road, but we love what we do.”

She also loves to help the industry in another way. “One thing I’m super proud of: I sit on the Consumer Home Protection Board of Rockland County,” Insignares noted. “It’s a volunteer position, not paid. I represent the industry and review pools in person if a consumer’s unhappy. I stand up for our people, including competitors. I’ll make sure the consumer understands what the builder is doing.”