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Long-time Toledo public servant Edna Brown passes away at 81-years-old

Brown's 30 year-plus career as a public servant included stints on Toledo City Council, Ohio's 48th House District, and Ohio's 11th Senate District.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A long-time leader in Toledo politics passed away Saturday. Edna Brown was 81-years-old. Her family says she died peacefully in her sleep. 

Senator Brown's 30 year-plus career as a public servant included stints on Toledo City Council, Ohio's 48th House District, and Ohio's 11th Senate District. In Columbus, Brown was the First Vice President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and the minority whip of the Democratic caucus in the Ohio Senate.

She grew up in Toledo, went to Toledo public schools, graduated from University of Toledo and Mary Manse College and was a city of Toledo employee for most of her life, serving in different departments. Brown was elected to the Ohio House in 2003 and became the first and only African American to represent Lucas County in the Ohio Senate in 2010.

Tributes to Brown poured in from her former colleagues and other political leaders after the news of her death was released. 

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz released a statement about his former Toledo City Council colleague. 

“Toledo has lost a friend with the passing of Edna Brown. Having served with Edna on City Council, I saw first-hand how tenacious and steadfast she was in fighting for people who did not have a voice. As a state legislator, she was a fierce advocate for justice and economic fairness. Edna was respected by everyone who was fortunate enough to know her, and she will be truly missed.”

State Senator Teresa Fedor offered the following statement:

“I extend my deepest sympathy to Edna’s family. Toledo lost a dedicated and effective public servant. We were close colleagues sharing many special times in politics. Edna could always be counted on for great advice and a warm smile. She had many political talents, which resulted in much success.”

Former state senator Mark Wagoner, who spent time with Brown in the statehouse, praised her dedication, kindness and intelligence. 

"Edna had a passion for others, and a passion to try and make things better," Wagoner told WTOL 11.

He fondly remembers sharing car rides with her back and forth to Columbus. Even know they were on different sides of the aisle, he says they always found a way to find more of what they had in common than what set them apart.

"Edna was great at trying to find common ground," he said, "and Edna cared about you as a person first rather than what label or title you had and that came across in every conversation I had with her."

Former state senator Randy Gardner also released a statement about Senator Brown's passing.

"I am saddened to learn of Edna Brown's passing. She was a wonderful friend and an effective senator who knew how to work across the aisle to get things done for Toledo. She is a special example of what true public service should be."

U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur spoke with WTOL 11 about Senator Brown.

"She gave her life for the future of our community and its betterment," she said.

Kaptur added that she first met Brown before either of them were elected officials at a union event on Summit Street in the 1990s. She says she had a presence that could command a room and a speaking voice that could move people. She says Brown was a trailblazer, becoming the first African American to represent Lucas County in the Ohio senate.

"She cut a pathway for other women and for persons of color and I think that was her greatest contribution," said Kaptur.

Both Kaptur and Wagoner say Brown fought hard for funding for important capital projects in Toledo and took on tough issues like the death penalty and treatment of inmates as well as issues facing women and minority communities.

"Edna was smart and savvy," Wagoner said. "She was a fantastic legislator and she had a big passion for Toledo and a big heart for folks who needed a little help from government."

U.S. Representative Bob Latta also offered his condolences on Twitter. 

Locally, Brown helped found the Greater Toledo Urban League and worshipped at Braden United Methodist Church. Brown graduated from Scott High School. 

The Toledo native retired from public office in 2018.

Her family has not released funeral arrangements at this time. 

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