Big thinker: Mike Brown

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As Urban Ventures Coordinator for Mayor Michael Coleman, Mike Brown is overseeing logistics for the upcoming U.S. Census, trying to address the needs of small business owners and working to fulfill the ambitions of the local arts community.

And that just covers his agenda on the day we spoke.

"If you like consistency, or if you're a very linear person, you probably wouldn't like my job," he joked.

As Brown explained, after a year of producing TV news in Columbus, he took on a temporary job as press secretary for Coleman's first mayoral campaign.

When Coleman was elected, the temporary position became permanent, and after nine years as the mayor's communications manager Brown ascended to his current position last year, advising the mayor on issues affecting quality of life in the city and fostering more transparency and flexibility in local government.

"My job is kind of like a computer server networking a lot of different things," Brown said. "Downtown [redevelopment] is part of it, but at the end of the day, it's just quality of life. We've tried to fill in some of the gaps to help all these other groups figure out their role. Every day it's a hundred calls in, how I can help them get to whatever they really want to do.

"It could be bike racks," he offered as an example. "For me, for the mayor, these are a quality-of-life issue. Now we're starting to see bike racks popping up all over the city. It's a tiny thing, but knowing you can call this person and get this done, it's going to happen."

As Brown acknowledged, the mayor's office can only do so much, and initiatives like Downtown revitalization involve a long, slow process. But he added that in his 10 years in City Hall, he's been able to see the effect of persistence on once-ignored areas like the King-Lincoln District and parts of Franklinton. He's also sensed an attitude shift around the city.

"'Old Columbus' versus 'New Columbus' is one of my frustrations to this day, but there is a new Columbus, and it has an attitude that starts with pride," Brown said. "I didn't feel that when I moved here. Now I go out to multiple neighborhoods and I see it expressed by strangers who have nothing to do with nothing, but they're living it every day.

"If that continues to happen for another 10 years and it gets people to stick around, to take that risk and open a business here," he added, "this is going to be a very cool city."