Marilyn Brown in her Short North home

In 2020, then-Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown began a new custom. When a virtual meeting came to a close, she would remind attendees to check in on family and friends they hadn’t seen or talked to in a long time. She continued these regular nudges through the year, as the pandemic raged on and the weight of her work as a Central Ohio political and civic leader grew heavier and heavier. Then, in January 2021, she had an epiphany. 

“What the hell am I doing?” she thought. “This is not making sense anymore. I’m telling everybody else to look in on people, and I can’t even go up to Cleveland to see my mother. Why am I doing this?” 

It’s an understatement to say that COVID-19 triggered a disruption of epic proportions to daily life for a majority of people across the world. Public officeholders found themselves managing coronavirus crisis after crisis, not really able to do the work they were elected to accomplish. Amid this difficult environment, Brown’s thoughts turned to her mother, Bea Epstein, 92, who lives in an independent/assisted living community in the same city where she raised her two daughters, Marilyn and Cindy. “I loved my job. I’d been doing it for 14-and-a-half years, and I loved every minute of it, but I started to really wonder, ‘Is this what I really need to be doing? Am I ever going to get that time back with my mother?’”