Over a decade ago, George Brown set his sights on City Hall.
Currently a first-term Wilkes-Barre city councilman, Brown said his mayoral aspirations date back to when the life-long city resident was working for Thomson Multimedia and faced a possible relocation to Indiana, Ohio or California. The married father of three said dozens of residents approached him and said he would be a strong fit for mayor, but the potential move left him uncertain the timing was right.
So he waited until it was.
The move never materialized. So after retiring in November, Brown, 64, sought and won a city council seat in his home district of South Wilkes-Barre, vacated by District Judge Rick Cronauer. Now, he’s seeking the seat soon to be vacated by Mayor Tom Leighton.
“I always had that feeling that I thought I could do the job,” Brown said.
A 1969 Meyers High School graduate, Brown attended college on nights and weekends, earning degrees in Human Resources and Organizational Management from King’s College and Misericordia University, respectively. He retired after 38 years of management experience with RCA, General Electric and Thomson Multimedia.
Though brief, Brown said his time on council taught him about local government.
Through the meetings, he learned about the needs of the neighborhoods, he said. Brown said that experience, coupled with his business knowledge, makes him the candidate best suited for the job.
“I’m the only candidate in this race that can draw on experience from both the public and private sectors,” he said. “No one else can boast that.”
But Brown said he doesn’t believe the man he perceives as his main competition — former police chief Tony George — is the right fit for the city’s top elected position.
Right now under his platform, he said, George is running to be a police chief.
“When you are the mayor, when you are the CEO of a city with a $40-plus million budget, with over 300 employees… you have to be a person not just in charge of the police,” he said, citing his own experience in dealing with pension funds, budgets and unions.
“His campaign is about ‘law and order,’” he said. “My campaign is about total leadership.”
To highlight the difference, Brown purchased advertising in another newspaper in April.
That month, a handful of ads featuring George’s quotes from past Times Leader articles were published.
In one ad, taken from an article published in March 2007, George said he was dropping out of the 2007 municipal election because he didn’t have the “time and energy” to be mayor. Another ad suggested George left his job as police chief due to stress.
Citing an article from December 2003, George said “We had some pretty horrific crimes in the past year or year-and-a-half and it’s taking its toll. When you start not being able to sleep at night, it’s time to go.”
Defending the ads, Brown said he didn’t feel they were negative, but factual.
“Nothing was made up. Every single thing is fact,” he said.
As far as similarities to the current mayor, Brown acknowledged that sentiment was “out there,” but believed the comparisons were exaggerated.
“I am not Tom Leighton,” he said.
Citing his voting record as a councilman, Brown said he reviewed each decision that was taken to a vote.
“I don’t just make a decision based on if Tom Leighton suggested it. If it was right for the city and right for the residents, that’s a decision I make based on my own opinion,” he said.