A celebration of town champions
They’ve been pillars of the Greenwich community for decades. Next Sunday they’ll be recognized for their service.
On April 28, Greenwich Democrats will honor the lifetime achievements of Nancy Brown and Mary McNamee at the Democratic Town Committee’s (DTC) first Annual Awards Celebration.
Congressman Jim Himes, a Greenwich resident and former DTC chair, will be among those celebrating the achievements of these very special women.
“Mary and Nancy’s contributions to Greenwich have extended through generations and into every corner of our community,” said Himes in an email Wednesday. “The awards they will receive are a well-deserved tribute to them and a reminder to all of us of what good citizenship looks like.”
McNamee, retired controller for the American Cyanamid Company, is a lifelong Greenwich resident. Her service to the town includes 36 years on the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and 26 years on the Board of Assessment Appeals, a position she still holds.
Mary’s been a DTC mainstay for more than half a century, from 1966 until 2018. During this time she held many Democratic leadership positions including party vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. She’s been campaign headquarters manager, District 1 leader, and campaign treasurer for many candidates. She represented area Democrats on the Democratic State Central Committee for 32 years.
During my tenure as DTC chair from 1986 until 1990, I found Mary a tireless worker and a source of indispensible support. Her detailed knowledge of local and state party rules was invaluable. She was my go-to person for procedural questions, our institutional memory, and among the core people who kept the Democratic spirit alive in Greenwich, even when the going was tough.
Mary volunteers her time helping others, including with Greenwich Department of Human Services programs, Meals on Wheels, Red Cross blood drives, and the Women’s Club of Greenwich. She’s served on the St. Mary Church Parish Council, and is a member of the Greenwich Hibernian Association.
Nancy Brown, Greenwich’s Director of Community Development from 1979 until 2007, has long been a champion for civil rights and economic justice in our community.
In 1954, as a young fashion school graduate of Pratt Institute, Nancy was offered a job at Conde Nast in Greenwich. When she tried to book a room at the Greenwich YWCA, she says, she was told they did not accept Negroes. Undeterred, Nancy moved to Greenwich in 1955 after marrying David Brown, whose family had lived in Greenwich for three generations.
Nancy became active in the community and joined several boards including Family Centers, United Way, Julian Curtis School PTA, and Whitby School trustee. She was on the Representative Town Meeting for four years.
In 1969 Nancy became a founding member of the Southern Fairfield County Urban League. In 1975, she was appointed to the Board of the Greenwich Housing Authority.
The 1974 Housing and Community Development Act established the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to benefit persons of low and moderate income. Nancy worked to bring the program to Greenwich and gain RTM approval.
She became the town’s first Director of Community Development in 1979, and for nearly 30 years oversaw federal block grant funding that benefits many local nonprofit agencies. I feel privileged to have worked with Nancy on the advisory committee that makes these funding recommendations.
“It’s about thanking ... those that kept the flame burning for Democrats in a Republican majority town for so long,” said DTC chair Tony Turner, referring to Mary and Nancy. “They both have taught us many lessons ... among them perseverance about core beliefs.”
“It is a great honor to be the co-chair of an event celebrating these two great ladies,” said Denise Savageau. “Mary is just a treasure trove of knowledge on the party process and still a spitfire.” Savageau, retired Greenwich Conservation Director, met Nancy when they were both working in Town Hall. “She was an inspired leader that led us all with grace, dignity and a quiet strength. I truly admire these ladies and I am so lucky to have worked and learned from them both.”
The April 28 awards celebration is at the Hyatt Regency from 11:30 to 2. Advance purchase of tickets, available at the Greenwich Democrats website, is required. For more information, contact Savageau, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alma Rutgers served in Greenwich town government for 25 years. Her blog is atblog.ctnews.com/rutgers