Moving Up

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

WINTON – The best way to enjoy a successful career is starting at the bottom and working your way to the top.

Brenda Brown is a perfect example. Even before joining the Hertford County Department of Social Services as a receptionist in 1999, she and her family once needed assistance from that organization.

Now, 25 years later, Brown serves as the director of the agency, but that job will soon come to an end.

Brown, a native of Ahoskie, has been appointed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as the new Region 5 Director. She will oversee Social Services departments in 14 counties: Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Northampton, Pitt, Vance, Wake, Warren, Wayne, and Wilson.

Brown said the many different hats she has worn since joining DSS in 1999 has prepared her for this new job. Those “hats” include overseeing annual departmental budgets, training and managing staff, providing administrative oversight, and forging collaborative relationships between local, state, and federal agencies.

“I’m super excited about this new opportunity, one that allows me to remain within an agency whose main mission is to help those in need,” Brown said. “I’m ready for this new chapter in my life. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m eager to get started.”

On the other hand, leaving Hertford County DSS is bittersweet.

“We have a great staff here. They work extremely hard to provide a better quality of life for those in need,” Brown noted.

There was a time in Brown’s life where she was the recipient of the various programs offered by DSS.

“Yes, I was a once a client before taking my first job here years ago,” she stressed. “I’ve been in those shoes and saw first-hand all that DSS can offer. It’s more of a hand-up than a hand-out.”

Following graduation from Hertford County High School in 1995, Brown enrolled at Elizabeth City State University, graduating in 1999 with a degree in Criminal Justice.

“I was undecided then on the exact career path I would take. All I knew for sure is that I wanted to help people,” she recalled. “I just love helping people, helping families and children. I was raised that way. I was the neighborhood helper as a child.”

Her first job at Hertford County DSS in 1999 was a receptionist. One month later, she became an Enhanced Social Worker.

In 2005, she moved over into Child Protective Services (CPS) as a Social Worker. That led to the job of the Lead Social Worker in CPS and then as the supervisor of that department.

“All along the way I was able gain valuable knowledge that helped me to advance my career. When an opening became available, I applied for it, I didn’t shy away from any challenge,” Brown said.

She strived to better herself professionally by gaining two Masters degrees: one in Human Services and the other in Social Work. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate.

In 2014, Brown was named the Director of Hertford County DSS.

Now with 25 years under her belt, Brown has witnessed many changes to social work.

“The morale is higher than ever before,” she stated. “We’re doing well with programming functions and guidelines. We’ve grown professionally. We hire, train and develop our staff. All our programs are doing well, especially in child welfare.”

Brenda Brown (foreground, left) has accepted a new job as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Region 5 DSS Director. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Brown acknowledged a higher power has guided her professional journey as well as her walk with God.

“I’m thankful to God for this new opportunity,” she said, adding that she often turns to the Bible to seek words to help light the way. Brown cited her favorite passage of scripture comes from Philippians, chapter 4, verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

She also expressed thanks to family and friends for their love and support throughout her life.

Raised by her grandmother, the now late Clara Vinson Powell, Brown is the daughter of Brenda Powell and Rudolph Bunch, both of Ahoskie.

Brown and her husband, Antony, are the parents of two adult children, Dajah Chamblee and Christian Brown. The couple has one granddaughter, Miyah Robinson.

Brown’s tenure as Hertford County DSS Director comes to an end on May 10. She begins her new job as Region 5 Director on May 13.

“Brenda has been a great leader for our Department of Social Services,” said Bill Mitchell, who chairs the Hertford County DSS Board of Directors. “She has been with us a long time and performed an awesome job. It will be extremely hard to replace all that experience.

“We hate to see her go but we understand when an opportunity like this presents itself it’s hard to turn down,” Mitchell added.

He said the local DSS Board is in the early stages of advertising the vacancy and accepting applications.

“We’ll looking at appointing an interim DSS Director. That will allow us to take the time necessary to find the right person to continue all the great work that Brenda Brown started,” Mitchell said.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal