Yet the former AFSCME
executive committee leader refused to be silent, continuing
to step up and not back and standing when asked to sit down,
while negotiating union contracts with the City of Toledo
for her members.
After retiring from the
city and thus required to give up her position with AFSCME,
a union official suggested that Brown run for city council.
Serving, (along with June Boyd) as one of the first
African-American women on city council, Brown spent eight
years there followed by nine years in the Ohio House and
eight in the Senate.
Characterized by some as a
person who ďhas earned respect and demands respect,Ē Brown
leaves a legacy of courage and many other lasting effects
via her pioneering work with AFSCME, Toledo City Council,
community development and in the Ohio General Assembly.
I caught up with Senator
Brown to reflect upon her ďrock-solidĒ career as an elected
What differentiates Edna Brown from other elected officials?
Well, this is what I see in myself and probably anyone else
who has a passion for this kind of work. You look at your
own upbringing, background and experiences and you empathize
with other people who may have fallen onto hard times or
have a need for something, and you find yourself reaching
out. And I believe much of what I have done in - I am going
to call this my second career - was shaped by the positions
I held with the City of Toledo, and not necessarily what the
titles were, but because of the actual experiences.
And it was always people
calling in and I would have to research or come up with an
answer or refer them to where they could get an answer and I
always felt that you should never give people another phone
number to call or say that this is not the department that
handles that. I always felt that you should do the best you
could to come up with a solution to their problem or at
least put them in touch with someone who could come up with
a solution to their problem. And that has followed me
What are you most proud of in your time in Columbus?
Iím most proud of the fact that I met so many dedicated
statesmen and colleagues who were genuinely interested in
serving the people of the State of Ohio. I met many on both
sides of the aisle, who were not so much interested in
feathering their own nest, but really in reaching out and
helping others and looking out for the well-being of all the
citizens of the state.
You and I have talked in the past about the long and tedious
commute between Toledo and Columbus, however can you paint a
picture of the actual experience of serving as a legislator
The difference between Toledo and Columbus, is like two
different worlds. Columbus isÖand I donít want to paint a
negative picture of Toledo because I love Toledo and Toledo
is the perfect place to raise a family. But Columbus has
that big city feel. It is the center of government for the
State of Ohio. Itís where everything happens. You have all
walks of life. You have the big university and there are
many experiences that you can have in Columbus that you
cannot have in a city like Toledo.
But when it comes to when
comparing my experience in driving from Toledo to Columbus
for the Senate position and when I was in the House of
Representatives for nine years, that is a very, very lonely
drive. But once youíre in Columbus, itís a whole Ďnother
experience, but I have heard many people say serving there
takes a toll on their family. I was fortunate or
unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, my husband
passed way while I was on city council, so by the time I was
appointed to the position in Columbus, I was a widow, so I
did not have that disconnect with my family that many people
have. So there was no strain on my family, my children were
grown and out of the house.
Of the things you championed in Columbus, what are you most
Iím most proud of a couple of things. My very first bill,
called Shynerraís Law, was one I was very proud to get done
because it did something for our young people who had no way
of getting, shall we say, the proper attention to problems
of teenage domestic violence and abuse. We had several
teenage young ladies actually murdered by their boyfriends
whoíd tried to get some help from the courts, but there was
no avenue to do that.
Another thing Iím very
proud of, even though my name is not listed as the primary
sponsor, was for the no excuse absentee voting legislation.
I put that idea in a bill and although it didnít pass we
were able to get it incorporated into another bill that did
pass, so I do take credit for it and so Iím very proud of
that. I also brought attention to some other things that are
going to pass eventually such as PTSD protection benefits
for first responders
Why arenít more young people involved, particularly in
Toledo, in running for elected office?
The salary is not that great for the local positions where
most people need to begin. Unless young people are still
living home with parents or if they happen to be a young
person married to someone with a job that is sufficient to
support them and a young family, then they cannot afford to
run for public office, but I wish more of them would get
You have a reputation of being gentle but very tough, and
that one does not ďmess withĒ Edna Brown. What do you think
Well, I kind of like it, depending on whose mouth it comes
I donít like controversy
but I am serious and I try to be gentle. You will not find
me using profanity or being loud and boisterous or anything
like that, but I will stand my ground, and Iím using that
term because the Ohio Legislature will get (Stand Your
Ground) bill next week, on issues that Iím passionate
about. And I will not give on issues that Iím passionate
You have been a very powerful figure in Columbus and very
few people with power are able to wield it both justly and
effectively. Yet you have the reputation of understanding
how to handle power respectfully but forcefully. That is not
an easy feat.
I think some of that perhaps goes back even before I got
into the political arena. As I said, when I worked for the
City of Toledo, I learned that if you want something or you
want to accomplish something, you go to someone who can give
you what you want or help you to accomplish what you want.
And so I used that and when I first was elected to city
council, I was able to use my relationships, shall we say,
with the directors and commissioners and managers with whom
I had worked before I retired. I was able to pick up the
telephone and speak to them one-on-one and ask questions and
get answers to things I wanted without making a big show of
So that served me well,
not only when I was on city council, but also once I was in
Columbus. As they say, you can catch more bees with honey
than vinegar. So sometimes itís better not to make a loud
noise, but try to quietly get things done. But then on the
other hand, once in a while you find the only way you can
get attention for something that is important to you is to
issue a press release, and I learned how to do that in a way
that I donít believe ever hurt my reputation.
Do you have any regrets?
None whatsoever. I have absolutely no regrets. I will
admit Iíve gone farther than I ever dreamed I would, but I
have had experiences that I shall never forget.
Whatís next for Edna Brown?
Right now, what I plan to do is just kind of come home,
relax and Iíve got a couple of younger grandbabies and one
great-grand and Iím going to enjoy them before they grow up
on me. Going to try and play a little golf. Iíve always
loved to travel, so I may do a little bit of travelling, but
immediately I am going to relax, at least until the weather
gets warm, and then I may do some volunteer work for some
agency or other, but Iím not looking for another 9-5 and Iím
not looking for another paid position.
Well, you certainly deserve the time to relax.
Yes, and I do plan to, but I do think that there is somebody
somewhere who would not mind having me give some free time
to them here and there. Iím just so thankful and I feel so
very, very blessed to have been able to take advantage of
the various opportunities that came my way. Not many people
can say that.
Thank you so much for your time and your service.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at
Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.