Taking Care of Home: Terry Brown Jr., Community Advocate and Charlotte City Council District 3 Candidate
Meet Terry Brown Jr., a Fayetteville native raised by public educators in North Carolina. See what drove him to advocate for economic balance in his west side Charlotte neighborhood, his civic involvement advice for newcomers and see what all he has in story for the Queen City.
Tell me about yourself and how you got involved in Charlotte’s civic engagement scene
I went to UNC Charlotte and majored in Political Science and from there I moved away for a few years to go to law school (Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University, Raleigh, NC) and to go to work. I always wanted to end up back in Charlotte so after law school, I moved back and got a job at a law firm here and from there I started going back to some of my old connections I had when I was in school. I volunteered with organizations I was passionate about like the Urban League, the UNC Charlotte Black Alumni Chapter and I got involved with some political groups as well. I just kind of grew from there and found my niche; finding out where I can best use my skills and where I can make the most impact.
What brought you back to Charlotte after college?
Before college, the city was really growing. The Epicenter was brand new, South End was growing, the Light Rail (CATS Blue Line) just opened and all that was beginning to happen. I grew up in Fayetteville, which is kind of a smaller town and I had traveled some to other cities and lived in Raleigh for a while. I also had a lot of friends that I would visit in Atlanta and other cities like that, and I feel like Charlotte was kind of the sweet spot. You know it's not a huge city, it's not a sprawling city, but it's not a small city either and it's kind of the same reason why decided to go to UNC Charlotte. It was a newer university that was growing. I had a good opportunity to really get involved and make an impact.
What is your “Why”? What motivates you to push for change?
My biggest “Why” comes from my family. When I grew up in Fayetteville, both my parents were public school educators; they were teachers, principals and I saw them working hard for the kids in their classrooms. They instilled in me from a young age that, when you've been blessed, when you've been given a lot, you really need to pour that back into other people. I saw them spending money and time to give to their students, their classrooms and things like that. It could have been used in other places but seeing the impact it had on other people was my biggest driver for trying to find ways to give of myself. My biggest thing is trying to be a bridge and a connector. I feel like I can really speak to people of all statuses, of all races and try to really build those connections and build those bridges because, going back to my previous answer,
Charlotte is a is a big little city and there's a way to make a lot of these things happen if you just put in the work.
Tell me about your work with the Historic Camp Greene Neighborhood. How have you been able to balance preserving your neighborhood’s history while welcoming new residents?
Yes, so I live in the Historic Camp Greene neighborhood and I've been very involved with the neighborhood association doing stream clean-ups, street clean-ups and this year I was the chair and organizer of the National Night Out event. This is the first time in about five or six years, they've done it so we were able to get the group organized and have a good turn out. I think you hit the nail on the head with the balanced part of it. The one good thing is that our neighbor association is big on education. There's been a real estate developer who's coming in and just mailing letters to everybody who lives in the neighborhood saying they will buy your house for $75,000 to $80,000. These letters look like an official legal document and people actually sign it. They’ll come in and buy the house 80 grand, less whatever taxes they owe, and bulldoze those houses and they'll put two $400,000 houses up on those lots. This is a problem because to a lot of people think $70,000 cash is a big thing, but, if you look at the landscape in Charlotte right now, you can't go anywhere (buy a home) in Charlotte with the $70,000 you got in your pocket now.
So it's a big issue… but the one thing that the neighborhood has been doing that I like is when new people are moving to the neighborhood into these newer homes, the neighborhood is very welcoming of them, and trying to make sure that they come to the neighborhood association meetings and they understand the history of this neighborhood. We really do a good job of making sure people understand this is historic neighborhood. These are good people that live here.
Do you volunteer on local boards and committees? What advice do you have for people just getting started?
Right now I'm on the Zoning Board of Adjustment Committee. We meet the last Tuesday of the month and essentially we're a quasi-judicial board so many of our decisions can be appealed by the Superior Court here in Mecklenburg County. We handle any variances that people want to have for their properties and we also hear any appeals from the historic district of permission. One of the biggest things that I enjoy about it is you get a sense of where the city is going based on the variances that people are requesting. Properties changing from one type of zoning to another and people wanting to add onto their homes, tells you the future direction of these different communities. There's a lot of change in Charlotte right now and land is the most valuable commodity, so having a part in that it's really big for me.
I’m also the chair of the John S. Leary Association of Black Attorneys where we do a lot of advocacy work for people in the community on legal side of things. I also volunteer with the Harvest Center off of Freedom Drive and try to go every month to Hashtag Lunchbag Charlotte as well. The advice that I would give for people getting involved is I would recommend that you get to know the representative for your district because the City Council has a vote on it (your application) and if they see your name in a stack of applications, you can give them some personal and professional background information, and give them a reason to choose you over anybody else.