When you mention the name Nancy Ann Brown, words that commonly follow are “first” and “started.” That’s because she forged new paths for women in Columbus and Bartholomew County politics and created programs intended to help local government and its constituents.
It’s for those reasons and a lifetime of contributions to the community that made Brown a good choice for The Republic’s 2015 Woman of the Year award, presented to her during a ceremony Oct. 20 at Donner Center.
Brown bucked tradition and in 1971 became the first woman to serve as Bartholomew County treasurer. Eight years later, in 1979, she became the first woman in Columbus history to be elected mayor. Those achievements are significant because politics at the time was still considered a man’s domain. When she became mayor, for example, only 12 other cities across Indiana had female mayors. Since then, the city and county have had a number of women win election in local government offices, including a second female mayor.
During Brown’s time as mayor, she started a program that has become known as Leadership Bartholomew County. The program has trained hundreds of participants by teaching them about the community, how to be a more effective leader in it and how to effect positive changes through collaborative projects. That’s a lasting and ongoing benefit.
Among other programs she created while mayor, Brown started a rainy day fund for city government and the First Tuesday Forum, a monthly meeting for women to explain the inner workings of city politics.
Her contribution to the community continued long after her four years as mayor, with service on local boards related to tourism, business and professional women.
Brown has set a good example for women who want to be active in their communities and make a difference, and the honor she received — The Republic’s 34th Woman of the Year — was well deserved.