Spotlight on Community College Leaders:
Pitt Community College Trustee Gloristine Brown
“I know my calling; my calling is to serve,” says Mayor Gloristine Brown. Brown heeds that calling daily. Beginning in 1999, Brown served as commissioner of the town board of Bethel, North Carolina. Since 2014, she has served as the town’s mayor. She is also on numerous local and statewide boards and committees, is in her sixth year as a Pitt Community College (PCC) trustee and is on the NCACCT Executive Board. Most recently, Mayor Brown announced her candidacy for the North Carolina House of Representatives.
In her involvement as a community college trustee, Brown says it was not until after she joined the board that she learned it was her job to support the college president rather than to help manage the college. She said that if a trustee realizes there are concerns at his/her college, then the trustee should talk to the board chair or to the President. “The President is the one who makes the decision about what to do,” she says. One thing Brown quickly learned when she became a trustee was that she needed to be involved in the college to respond to community comments and questions about college activities. She said she likes to be at every committee meeting so she can hear information firsthand.
Brown suggests new trustees stay engaged as much as possible by attending board and committee meetings and by interacting with those who are on campus. She advises to never assume; always ask questions. She also warns that trustees should not make promises or speak negatively about their schools. A trustee, she says, should be the true champion for a college. “People will know if you really care about your college,” says Brown.
Brown sees the important roles community colleges play in our communities and beyond. She understands that for students who want to go to a four-year university, beginning their educational journey at the community college can save students money. She also sees how community colleges can provide one-on-one attention to help students determine what they want to do for a living so they do not waste valuable time and money. “I look at community colleges as being a savior for students,” says Brown.
At PCC, Brown is especially proud of the numerous ways the school helps students continue their education. She is impressed with PCC’s early college program, as well as the school’s reentry program, which works with the county’s sheriff’s department to help those who have been in detention or imprisoned receive education they need to get into the workforce. She is proud of the school’s VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program, whose purpose is to provide mentoring, career guidance and $1,000 per year scholarships to selected Pitt County public high school students. Programs like that, says Brown, provide funding that help students who may otherwise not be able to continue their education.
As for the community college system as a whole, Brown loves the way the colleges work together as a family. She says that even though colleges are in different parts of the state, the goal is the same. “We are all trying to be one voice. Colleges work together; I love that. There is no ‘I’ in team,” says Brown. “We can show the United States that North Carolina is truly the great 58,” she says.
Although she is currently a full-time politician in her mayoral role in Bethel, Brown’s occupational history has included working a bit in the nursing and insurance industries. In fact, if she could do it all over again, she says she would use her calling of service to become a registered nurse. A mother of two now-adult children—a daughter and a son—Brown said that it was her daughter who encouraged her to get her Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and a master’s degree in Public Administration. While she is glad she accomplished these educational goals, she wishes she had received her degrees at an earlier age.
As mayor, one of Brown’s biggest success stories was when she was able to affect the citizens of Bethel in a positive financial way. Brown helped Bethel’s residents reduce their water and sewer bills by an estimated 23 percent. The town partnered with the Greenville Utilities Commission to assume ownership and management of the town’s water and wastewater systems.
Brown is also proud Bethel has a workforce development center that is partnering with PCC and that the town now has a thriving youth center. She said she is pleased that some of the town’s younger citizens want to restore some of the youth programs that Bethel once had. “Seeing community involvement was one of my prayers. That’s what makes a community,” says Brown.
When asked why she wanted to run for a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives, Brown stated that several people approached her about running. After giving it some consideration, she decided she would like to use the same energy she was using to serve her community in Bethel and extend that service to her district. If elected, Brown says she could check running for state office off of her bucket list, as serving at the state (and perhaps later, the federal) level is something she has wanted to do for a while now. Brown wants to serve the rural area of her part of the state by giving her constituents a voice in Raleigh. “It’s not about my agenda. It’s about what is best for the people,” says Brown. “The heart I have for my town is the same I would have for my district.”
With the experience she has gained as a trustee, Brown says if she succeeds in her run for the House of Representatives, she knows she could be a strong voice for community colleges. “I’ve been in the trenches,” she says. “I’m on the inside looking out.” Brown wants to be the person who can emphasize the positive effects community colleges have on our communities and in turn, help community colleges receive the funding they need to be even more effective. If elected, Brown said one of her top priorities would be community colleges. She also said she wants to make sure North Carolina’s citizens have affordable healthcare and jobs in which they are well paid.
In her free time, Brown loves to read, play word games, sing, and, of course, volunteer. “I will give my last if I need to. Children and seniors are my heart,” says Brown.