Gavin Brown

Article by Michelle Delaney, Editor

The 2021 Presidential Inauguration was a historic event for the Nation but because of the COVID pandemic, only a few people were lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend the swearing-in of President Biden and experience all the splendor surrounding the stately event.

Gavin Brown, a Clermont born and raised South Lake High School alumnus, was one of the few to receive an invitation to the inauguration. The South Lake Tablet asked Gavin to share his experiences with our readers.

TABLET: How does someone get an invitation to the inauguration?

Gavin: Usually, members of Congress get around 50 tickets to give out to their constituents but this year, because of the pandemic, each member only got one for themselves plus 1.

I originally started working as an advisor to Kamala Harris when she first announced her run for President. We had a late campaign strategy difference of opinion so I jumped to Joe Biden a month before she dropped out as a presidential candidate (no hard feelings and still keep in touch).

After focusing my effort in the final weeks of the presidential race and winning Georgia for Biden/Harris in 2020, I moved our staff hires to the two Georgia Senate Runoff races to gain control of the Senate (which we did!). It wasn’t easy but that may have been enough work to score an awesome ticket.

TABLET: Coming from Florida, how did you find the weather in Washington DC? I noticed a sprinkling of snow before the inauguration began.

Gavin: The weather at President Biden’s inauguration was pretty mild compared to former President Clinton’s inaugurations. Those were COLD ones!

TABLET: Did you have any safety concerns during your stay in Washington DC after the attack on the Capitol?

Gavin: After the domestic terrorist events on Jan 6 at the Capitol in DC, I felt it was one of the safest places to be. Capitol Hill Police and the Troops were very professional. I even got some high fives.

TABLET: Can you describe the highlights of the event?

Gavin: Generally, it’s a mob of more than 200,000 people; however, this year, attendance was limited to around 2,000 people. I have to hand it to Capitol Hill police and event organizers, it was a breeze. They recommended you get there early and enter on the opposite side of the Capitol building. The city was locked down tight with barricades and security but once you got through security, it was well organized. I was very moved as I gazed at the Capitol dome, witness a historic celebration, and hang with people who I highly respect and have worked with on several campaigns. There was no fear in the crowd, just hope. That made my day!

TABLET: Will you describe your favorite moments during the event?

Gavin:  Spending time with my Aunt Cin who retired as the first female President of the American Shipbuilding Assoc. in DC., as well as members of her former office staff which I had worked with including Laura Haas. Laura brought her boyfriend, Author Chris Johnson. When I was heading to the Capitol, he gave me a copy of his book, “pearls”, which he personally signed, “Now it’s your turn to storm the Capitol, you go Gavin”

TABLET: Did you meet any well-known/interesting people during this historic event?

Gavin:  DC is an interesting town because it has the ultimate networking ability. I met up with several former campaign staffers, volunteers, and interns. They know the best spot to gather gossip from (Bullfeathers). I also got to sit next to former Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Rand Paul at a French restaurant across from the Senate Building. Everyone needs to know, restaurants are less crowded due to Covid and conversations can be easily heard.

TABLET:   When did you discover that you had an interest in politics?

Gavin: My mother Diana Brown, a life-long resident of Clermont and retired Lake County elementary school teacher, had me going door to door for local school board candidates when I was out of the stroller. My Aunt Cynthia Brown, who grew up in Lake County, taught me the DC ropes every summer in DC while I was on summer breaks from Florida State University. I became the favorite lobbyist at ASA.  My Aunt was more legislative and I was more campaign minded.

Special shout out to our former Congresswoman and Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Karen Thurman. She asked for my endorsement when she ran for Chair while I was at FSU and declared me “the rising star in the FL Democratic Party.” She also endorsed me to become one of the youngest delegates elected to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I still have my DNC membership and I will never forget how moved I was that she wanted me (a college student) to offer HIS endorsement to assist in her run.

TABLET: Tell us about your career path.

I was an Associate Director working with Audience Services, Development and Marketing at the biggest not-for-profit Broadway theatre company in the country (Roundabout Theatre CO).

Like many others in NYC and the Theatre Industry in general, Covid layoffs were inevitable. After 13 years of working my way up in the company, I became a casualty of the COVID layoffs.  I only hope the arts can come back to what it was before COVID.

I had to pick myself up and find a new path. I am currently enrolled virtually through a highly competitive Harvard Kennedy School of Government Public and Leadership track and currently studying for the Foreign Services Officers test which allows CIA, FBI, and White House accessible credentials. I had some GREAT people who recommended me into the program and I am forever grateful for their belief in me.

TABLET: You were born and raised in Clermont Fl, a graduate of South Lake High. You left your mark on SLH by winning the Man of the Millennium contest for Prom in 2002!  Thinking back, did you have a favorite High School teacher who inspired you?

Gavin:  I was so fortunate to have so many great teachers: Tricia Murphy, Cheryl McLean, Evelyn Robinson, Jennifer Julian, and Ruthe Sides. I also cannot leave out Georgette Miller who followed our “star” class of theatre from 4th-8th grade, moving to 3 different schools. I am sure she would still be with that special class of talent to this day if she could.

TABLET:  You are only 37 years old yet have accomplished so much. What next? What do you envision yourself doing in the next year? in the next 5 years?  Long term?

Gavin: Covid really was a blessing and a realization.  I’ve enjoyed my time in Broadway Theatre Management but the loss of my job of 13 years really made me wake up to what I really want and feel compelled to do.

I plan on finishing my Harvard Certification through the Kennedy School of Government and passing the Foreign Service Officer’s exam. After which, I envision myself working for the UN, CIA, State Dept, or the White House. I also am listening to some recent overtures with FL Democratic party officials for a possible run for office. Stay tuned.

TABLET: What would you tell a young student about the importance of Voting?  Citizenship? Pride?

Gavin: Don’t listen to what family, friends or people surrounding you try to tell you. Do your own research, fact-check, and look around. Don’t box yourself into a certain role. Work hard, fight hard, and work with both parties to find common ground. My wise grandmother, Dorothy Hayes, always told me, you learn more listening than speaking. I’m still trying to learn from that knowledge.

TABLET: Do you have a role model? A mentor? A person who inspires you?

Gavin: There are too many to mention all but I will start with my Dad and Mom (Diana and Jerry Brown). Both taught me to display work ethics, show kindness, and have a good sense of humor while moving up to make the world a better place through education and volunteering in the community through organizations such as the Lions Club. My aunts, uncles, and grandparents believed in me (even campaigned for me to win a coveted delegate seat in 2004 with the highest margin of victory in that district ever).

Congresswoman Karen Thurman was always supportive. Georgette Miller showed me that I had talent and could accomplish anything I set my mind to do.

Special appreciation to the Jones and Reaves families. Ms. McLean and Ms. Nettie Robinson, two great, strong women to show me what humanity should strive to be.

I am truly grateful I was raised not to judge people based on their color, religion, or which side of town they live on. I figured it out early on and it gave me the passion for what is coming next in the next chapter of my life. I love all the people who inspired me.  I just have to say, RIP Patrick Clark, you were the best-adopted brother and I hope to keep the promise to you should I run for office.

Gavin enthusiastically declares, “Stay tuned, I am just getting started and January 20, 2021 just fired me up more!”

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