Tim Brown, President of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, is retiring in July, after a life of serving the public by working to better the world and the democracy he has played a part in.
“I would say, without hesitation, in my entire work career, the greatest honor I’ve had has been bestowed on me by the people of Wood County, who let me serve in elective office and participate in our country’s great system of democracy,” Brown said.
It’s big ideas like that which have led him, starting at a very young age.
“As a kid I gravitated to a love of history,” Brown said.
He thanks a teacher who taught him that: “History is nothing more than the events taking place around us, right now, and you can have an impact,” Brown said. “That’s when a light bulb went off, that my love of history could also be impacted by politics and by service.”
The teacher was T.J. Vogt, who taught 10th grade a class called Current Events. Brown eventually recognized him, along with family, on the floor of the state House during his swearing in as a representative.
That concept, combined with something his father, who had a career in the Air Force, instilled in him, “that your life will be most rewarding at its end when you can reflect on the things you did to improve the lives of others.”
Brown will be retiring at the end of July, but is hoping to be able to help ease the new president into the role before completely stepping aside.
“Being president of TMACOG is like being the conductor of a well-tuned orchestra,” Brown said.
He considers the mix of engineers and planners at TMACOG extremely knowledgeable.
“You let them do their thing. They are good at it. I’ve got a really, really good team and I’ve had it for a long time, many of them. They know the law and they know their responsibilities regarding public planning.”
He explained that the federal government started TMACOG in 1968 as a way to regionally coordinate infrastructure projects.
“They said ‘Hey Toledo, Perrysburg, Bowling Green, no more federal dollars for your pet infrastructure projects. This is the taxpayer’s money. It should go towards the free flow of our citizenry and commerce throughout the regions of our country, therefore you will only draw down money as a region,’” Brown explained.
It meant that councils of governments were created across the country, including TMACOG.
“For me to get to be close to that system, which has worked for over 50 years, has been very rewarding, because it does draw all the region’s leaders together,” Brown said. “They don’t always agree, but they reach a consensus.”
The projects that TMACOG is involved in take many years, some of which started before Brown took on the job 7 years ago.
There are a list of accomplishments, some he has shepherded after being started by others and some begun by him, which he is very proud, including: from Wood County bridge improvements that he helped with as a county commissioner, to the DiSalle Bridge over the Maumee River, the equalizing of regional water rates coming from Toledo and the millions now being spent toward connectivity from the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Canada through Toledo to Columbus.
There are many other smaller infrastructure improvements Brown also had a hand in, but it’s the philosophical approach he helped to encourage through the various offices he’s held, that he hopes most to continue.
Brown held elected positions for many years.
Prior to his work at TMACOG, Brown was twice elected to the Ohio House, representing the 3rd District. When elected in 2012, Brown, a Republican, became the first openly gay man to serve in the Ohio state legislature, and only the second LGBT person.
“The voters judged me based on my track record of service to the public and that’s, in itself, a positive reflection on Wood County, as to how they responded in the voting booth…and how they reacted to that issue,“ Brown said.
He was reelected in 2014 and then resigned the position in 2016 when he was offered his current job as President at TMACOG.
“My objective was to go to Columbus and put citizens first, not a party. I think if you are serving your constituents well, it’s hard to characterize everything you do in government as being entirely red or entirely blue. So there were a number of issues where I was able to work with the opposite aisle and make a difference. I’m proud of that,” Brown said. “Sadly, we’ve skewed, politically, to far in the category of making politics a blood sport.
”It’s a sad state of affairs to be in with so many important issues, that we should be working together on,” Brown said.
His first elected position was as a Wood County commissioner, for which he ran in 1996 and lost, but was then appointed in 1997. He was then elected to serve four terms.
He stressed that his race against Alvie Perkins, in 1996, never got dirty. The expected 30% loss resulted in a surprise actual 9.5% loss. Brown pushed doing regular town hall meetings as an issue in the race, which he then did after being appointed to the open seat.
Brown considers those “the good old days,” because there wasn’t the pressure to put party first. Because of that position, he was able to become friends with his former opponent and work with him for for the betterment of the county.
Brown started in government working in the district office for the late Congressman Paul Gillmor, and has believed in a positive and coalition oriented government. Went on to add that “Governing isn’t red versus blue. It’s gray, if you are doing it right,” Brown said.
He reinforced that philosophy by saying at every monthly new employee orientation as a county commissioner, that there isn’t anybody more important than anyone else.
“It has been my greatest honor to serve the people of Wood County,” Brown said.