This week we are featuring VPA’s new Director of Member Services, Mary Brown. Mary comes to VPA from the Richmond Region Tourism. She talks about growing up in Richmond, her career up to this point, what she’s looking forward to at VPA, her beagle, Bailey, and a lot more.
Can you please introduce yourself and give some background information –biographical and professional–to start?
I am Mary K. Brown. Folks call me Mary, Mary Brown, Mary K., MB, MKB…so I’m flexible! Native of Richmond and have enjoyed witnessing the tremendous growth and transformation of the region. Proud alumna of Spelman College, located in Atlanta, GA. After graduation, I decided I wanted to save the world, so I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand for over two years. It was a truly wonderful experience that changed my life forever. Upon returning to the states, I started my 24-year career in hospitality, event management and professional development with roles at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Supreme Court of Virginia and CFA Institute. Most recently, I served as the National Sales Manager for Richmond Region Tourism and I loved being an ambassador for my hometown. We have so many wonderful assets, including Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). So VCU was the obvious choice when I decided to go back to school many years later and earn my MBA. I am mother to a canine son, Mr. Bailey Brown, the Beagle who just turned 14. He’s simply the best!
As a native of Richmond, you’ve probably seen some pretty dramatic change in the city over the years. What have been some of the biggest of those changes you’ve witnessed?
Richmond has always been known for its history and until recent years that was all we were known for. Now the region really owns and embraces that history…good, bad and indifferent. Organically, we have complemented that history with a creative culture and vibe due to an influx of young people who have planted seeds here. This mix has made us a very vibrant yet authentic destination. What is mind blowing is the fairly recent rise of the incredible restaurant/craft beer scene, our blooming neighborhoods and entertainment districts and the growing number of local festivals. I imagine this is why I hear stories of people staying here after college or choosing to relocate to Richmond. No wonder businesses are moving their headquarters to Richmond – an up and coming destination like this one makes it easy to attract good talent.
Can you tell me a little about your new job at VPA and what you will be doing in this role? What made you want to work for a press association?
Admittedly, it was the description of the role that initially attracted me to this position at VPA. Becoming the new Director of Member Services is a full circle moment for me. I started my career managing events and professional development for a statewide member organization. I am a firm believer in lifelong learning and its importance at every stage of a person’s career. The fact that I have an opportunity to make an impact and serve members at a solid organization like VPA is a bonus. In my new role, I look forward to enhancing the professional growth of every member through a series of learning opportunities. In addition to my engagement with the VPA board and committee members, I will connect with journalism schools, members of the community and other organizations who share similar goals in an effort to expand our reach. Though I am new to this industry, I am learning so much every day. Receiving member feedback will be critical in helping me to better understand the gaps. The work that VPA and its members do for our communities throughout Virginia is both impressive and important. It is a reminder, that a free and vibrant press is more important than ever.
“Receiving member feedback will be critical in helping me to better understand the gaps. The work that VPA and its members do for our communities throughout Virginia is both impressive and important. It is a reminder, that a free and vibrant press is more important than ever.”
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
Initially, I am looking forward to meeting members and really getting to know them. The upcoming 2018 VPA News and Advertising Conference and Awards Banquet will definitely provide opportunities for that. Additionally, VPA will soon be distributing a survey to our members. I am excited to receive the feedback, as it will allow me to work collaboratively with the VPA team in creating a strategic plan for member benefits and relevant programming. Overall, I am excited to use my skill set and professional experiences to support and engage our members. As I learn more about my responsibilities, I know I will be challenged to learn new skills and that is extremely appealing.
Hobbies and interests outside of work: Non-profit community board work, exploring new restaurants and all things spa
Favorite movie: No single favorite. Recently enjoyed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” “Black Panther” and “The Post.”
Favorite book, or author: No favorite. Right now I am reading “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones.
Odd fact about yourself not many people know: I played the violin for 8 years as a child.
One mantra you always keep in your head: The best is yet to come!