Mary Brown is the epitome of what we consider a true public servant —selfless, honest, hard-working, loyal and a true champion of the underdogs. Her example is one others who sit on boards across this county and beyond its borders would do well to mirror.
While we respect her decision not to seek another term on the Sampson County Board of Education, we have to admit we were saddened to learn of her choice, knowing the county system, its students, staff and faculty will be losing one of its greatest cheerleaders and someone who worked tirelessly to ensure the educational needs of everyone within the system were met.
With the importance of receiving a quality education always in the forefront of her mind, Brown viewed her role on the school board as one of a policy-maker, trusting the superintendents she has worked with through the years to administer the policies she and fellow board members set.
Her agenda — a quality education for all students — was never personal and it never wavered. She believed the educational mantra that every child can learn and she set out to see that Sampson County Schools had the tools necessary to make that happen.
She supported teachers and staff equally, believing that a bus driver and a custodian can have as much influence on a child as a teacher, and she urged them all to do so, knowing that for many children the only positive reinforcement they might get was from the school house or on the bus ride home.
Brown has been a hands-on leader, spending time in schools volunteering as a mentor, reading to youngsters, cheering athletes on from the sidelines and praising students’ hard work as she shook their hands and congratulated them on graduation day.
Those moments were perhaps the most special of her tenure as both a board member and board chairman.
We’ve applauded Brown for years for the countless selfless acts we’ve watched her carry out; for the way she has conducted herself on the school board; for the way she has sought unity even during the most difficult times for the system; for the way she has always sought to help the least among us, no matter their race; and for the way she could find a peaceful resolution even to the most difficult of situations.
We have always viewed her a kind-hearted, enthusiastic, loyal individual who never buckled to peer pressure but always stuck close to making decisions she believed in her heart were the best for the total school system.
Her common sense approach was often lauded by fellow board members from other districts, all who truly believed Brown was never out solely for the Union district, which she loved, but simply for students no matter from whence they came. You see, Brown knew the secret: no matter what school district you were from, no matter what your race or your socio-economic status, if Sampson County Schools was providing a quality education, all would benefit.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every board we had in Sampson County was filled with people who approached their leadership role with the same kind of gusto and selfless understanding that she has always had?
Brown said in a Thursday Sampson Independent article that while leaving the school board would be bittersweet, she felt strongly that “new blood, new enthusiasm, new ideas,” were needed. Again, there’s that selfless vision, a vision that allowed her to see beyond her own desire to remain on the school board to what she believed was truly best for the school system.
The jury is still out on whether her departure truly is best for Sampson County Schools, but we respect her reasoning and love her for yet another selfless act that serves as the exclamation point to our words.
Jack Lew, who served as the 76th United States Secretary of the Treasury during the Obama Administration, was quoted as saying, “I think there’s no higher calling in terms of a career than public service, which is a chance to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the world.”
Mary Brown answered that call back in the 80s and there’s no question she has made — and we are certain will continue to make — a difference in the lives of countless others, and by doing so she’s made a difference in Sampson County and, quite literally, the world.”