Wayne Brown spent decades working to improve Mesa, from its arts programs to its financial standing. Under his leadership on the city council and as mayor, the city saw a new spring training facilities built, a new convention center created and the establishment of the Mesa Arts Center.
Brown is being remembered this week as a strong leader who saw what Mesa could become for his children, grandchildren and beyond. He died Tuesday at age 76.
Brown grew up in Mesa, where he was born Nov. 16, 1936. A graduate of Mesa High School, he later earned an accounting degree from Arizona State University.
Longtime political colleague and friend Wayne Pomeroy, 90, sat down with the Tribune this week talk about Brown.
Pomeroy was mayor in 1976 when Brown was in his last year as a city councilman, a title Brown first gained in 1968.
“He was a really good thinker, really intelligent, a really smart person,” Pomeroy said. “He was very forward thinking so we got things done. Mesa had a lot of people at that time who were not thinkers, not for progress and things that needed to be done.”
One thing that “needed to be done” during Pomeroy’s term as mayor was creation of some place to hold Mesa’s 100th birthday party.
“In 1978, it was Mesa’s centennial. I was mayor. In 1976, we got everything done fast so we could have our celebration. Without people like Wayne, it would be tough to get things done,” Pomeroy said.
The two Waynes served in office together again two decades later.
During Brown’s term as mayor, from 1996 to 2000, the city needed to replace a city councilmember. Brown and others encouraged Pomeroy to take the spot.
“I worked really good with him. I felt he was a sharp individual and was progressive enough to get things done for Mesa and stuck with it,” Pomeroy said.
That was especially true with Brown’s work to get the Mesa Arts Center created, said Mesa’s current Mayor Scott Smith. In 1998, voters approves the “quality of life” tax that would lead to the center’s construction.
“He looked beyond the next year, even the next two to five years if you look at the things he pursued with passion, the arts center, the stadium. He realized Mesa needed those things that were significant in order to maintain our leadership. He didn’t want us to rest on our laurels. That’s what I appreciate about him. It was a long-term perspective,” Smith said. “That’s vision, someone who looks beyond the horizon and says, ‘What can I do to build this community for the next generations?’”
He and his wife, Kathye, also spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Mesa Arts Center, passing their goal of $3.5 million by more than $1 million, according to the city.
Pomeroy gave Brown credit for getting a new ballpark started in 1976 at Hohokam Park. That led to the Chicago Cubs’ return to Mesa from Scottsdale in 1979.
“When Wayne came in as mayor, he built a second ballpark,” Pomeroy said. “We needed a new park or we would never get the Cubs back. We had to move fast.”
That ballpark — dedicated in 1977 — was first home to the Oakland As for two years. It was eventually torn down, and replaced with the current Hohokam Stadium. In 2015, As will move back to Hohokam.
Brown was also a business leader. He started Wayne Brown & Co., a CPA firm, in Mesa. He later served as CEO of the fuel distribution company, Brown Evans Distributing Co. He and Kathye purchased that company in the 1980s, according to its website.
Brown is survived by his wife, Kathye; sons Kent and Marty; daughter Elizabeth; 13 grandchildren and three great grandchildren; his mother, Elva; his twin brother and a younger brother.
Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday, May 18, at the LDS Encinas Ward, 1100 N. Cooper Road in Gilbert.
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