Alumni spotlight: Marilyn Brown, MSODA '89
Weatherheadlines recently sat down with Marilyn Brown, newly elected Franklin County commissioner, to learn about how she uses her organizational behavior skills in her role as a public servant, her close-knit family, and her desire to improve the world.
Q: What is your current title and position? What does your current job entail?
I am a newly elected county commissioner. I am one of three elected commissioners serving Franklin County, Ohio. We serve as the executive and legislative branch of government, managing a budget of over one billion dollars and providing social services, safety and homeland security services, and a variety of programs and services to improve the quality of life for all residents of Franklin County.
Q: What degree did you receive from Weatherhead and in what year?
I received an M.S. degree in Organizational Development & Analysis (MSODA) in 1989 from the Weatherhead School.
Q: What brought you to Weatherhead?
I was impressed with the program and faculty. I am a Cleveland native, living in Cleveland with my husband and two children until 1992. I learned of the program through a friend who was a Ph.D. student in the program. My family moved to Columbus in 1992, when my husband took a position with (then) Attorney General Lee Fisher.
Q: How you have been able to relate your business management education and organizational behavior skills to your current career as an elected official?
I use my listening and group dynamics skills every day in my role in public service. I do not consider myself a politician, but rather a public servant. I have worked in public service my entire professional career. It is only recently that I have entered into the political arena as an elected official. Listening to really hear what others are saying and what they need is fundamental to the work I am doing. Finding common ground on complex and highly charged issues requires understanding what people need. Talking is less important in many instances than paying attention to group dynamics, making sure people are heard are essential ingredients to developing solutions that will work for all concerned.
Q: Have you been able to use your management skills to specifically benefit people and programs in the state of Ohio?
I have been in office for one month. I look forward to developing partnerships in our community and throughout our region and the state to maximize our resources. My work previous to being elected county commissioner was with a regional association of governments, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. I understand the benefits of working as a region on issues that transcend government boundaries. Franklin County is fortunate to be among few areas in the state that has been growing economically over the past few years. However, we must continue to work together with our city, Columbus, our suburbs, townships and villages, and neighboring counties, to ensure continuation of a high quality of life in our region.
Q: In your opinion, what is/was the most exciting aspect of being part of the Weatherhead community?
The entire two-year exhausting and intense program was exciting for me. The academic work with incredibly talented professors, my classmates, the work done in my organization -- all of it!
Q: Do you have any advice for current Weatherhead students?
Take advantage of every opportunity while you are at Weatherhead. Keep in touch with professors. I wish I had done that. It is only now that I am making connection with some of my professors. (I also need to get reconnected with our alumni group. We had one reunion and it was great. We need to keep connections with each other.)
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have two small grandsons living nearby in Columbus. My husband and I love to spend time with them when we can. What a blast being grandparents! My husband is an elected official -- a common pleas court judge, so our schedules are quite full. We enjoy movies, friends and living in our urban downtown Columbus neighborhood with lots of places to explore, walking to great restaurants, shops and Blue Jackets hockey. Soon, we’ll have our Columbus Clippers baseball stadium in downtown Columbus -- the Franklin County commissioners own the team and the stadium!
My husband, Eric, and I have two daughters. Our older daughter graduated from OSU law school and is taking the February bar exam. She and her husband and two sons live in Columbus. Our younger daughter lives in NYC, where she works as a stage manager and event planner.
Q: If you could invite any famous person/celebrity (living or dead) to dinner, who would it be and why?
I would love to have had the opportunity to meet Golda Meir. As Israel’s Prime Minister during quite turbulent times, I am fascinated by her motivations, choices and decision making.
Q: Who or what has been your inspiration in life?
My husband has been my inspiration in life. We grew up together -- literally and figuratively. We met at ages 6 and 7. He and I were in day camp together that his parents managed. My mom was his mom's secretary for 30 years. We were summer friends -- he a ’71 Mayfield grad and me a ’72 Brush grad. We were engaged in '72, got married in 1973. We've been married for 34 years and he has been my biggest inspiration, encouraging me always.
Q: Do you have a motto or tagline by which you live your life?
In my desk drawer for over 20 years is a quote from Ann Frank that has guided me and has great meaning for me: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."