A tribute to the late Leanna Brown

The Honorable Leanna Brown

January 7, 2017

Members of the Brown Family, Ambassador Roy, fellow elected officials, friends of Leanna Brown - Good morning.   Thank you for attending this memorial for a true friend. 

I am honored to stand here on behalf of many men and women in elective office – past and present.  WE all owe Leanna so much for her guidance, her keen interest, her good humor, her intellect with her Smith College education and her passion for politics and good public policy. And yes, for her dedication to successful Republicans and elections.

Leanna – the name is evocative!

Leanna Brown sat in the front row and the back row of this county and state’s life for decades – both a leader of great skill, and an advisor and mentor of great vision. 

She chose, at times, to do both, speaking out from the front row when others would not (for example, as a public leader, an author and columnist, writing personal notes of encouragement and praise!) and holding back from the rear to allow many other men and women to shine.

Leanna Brown broke the glass ceiling well before many others.   

I will not use time here and now to recount the “List of Firsts” that she compiled (first councilwoman, Freeholder, Freeholder-Director, Assemblywoman, Republican State Senator) but we all understand that being “first” was never her goal. 

The words of a former Secretary of State apply very well to Leanna:  She said, quote: "I think the truth of the matter is, people who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love and it just so happens that they are the first to do it." 

That former Secretary of State was another great American trailblazer: Condoleezza Rice.

Leanna and I served together as freeholders in the 1970’s so I had the unique opportunity to witness firsthand her struggles with the “old boys’ network” that made up the Board in those days.  They’d say “No Way”, Leanna” and pound the table and shake their heads!

She was never deterred – she was resilient, resourceful and determined and our county and state is a better place because she was so unwavering and we respected her for her persistence! 

For example, our taxpayers may take for granted our county’s Triple-A Bond Rating, but it was during Leanna’s tenure on the Finance Committee that the county first earned it 43 years ago!

Looking beyond that milestone, we see her mark in the creation of our county park system, the Morris Police and Fire Academy and the County College of Morris.  All are “gold star” institutions that are second to none and an incredible source of pride for all of us.  These were endeavors that Leanna encouraged, embraced and assured: Land purchased.  Foundations dug.  Classrooms occupied.  Lives fulfilled!

Throughout her county and state service, we watched Leanna with her many interns - young volunteers - as she went out of her way to urge talented young men and women to get involved with government.  In this way, her legacy will be felt for decades to come, in their successes.

Of course, we appreciate the fact that Leanna encouraged women to run for local, county, state and federal office, not only here in New Jersey, but across the nation.  She supported equal rights for women and the Equal Rights Amendment to our Constitution before the Freeholder Board in 1976.


My friends, “never” is a powerful word but WE elected officials believe there will never be anyone like LEANNA again. Her support of all of us, her passions, her boundless energy.  Her “big tent” Republican philosophy.  Her ambassadorial dress. Her hats.  Her clear vision for the future.

Yes, Leanna Brown sat in the front row and the back row of our county and state’s life for decades.  And WE are better for her many contributions.


To Bill, Stephen and the Brown family, you have much to be proud of. You are heirs to a wonderful family, having such exceptional parents as Stan and Leanna Brown. 

On behalf of so many elected officials, WE thank you for sharing her with us!