Amy Brewer said she wanted to make a difference after she and her family moved to Lebanon in December 1985. After seeing that there was only one woman member of Lebanon City Council, Brewer felt she could bring new energy as a young professional to her new community.
That “energy” was key to Brewer being a tireless advocate for Lebanon for more than three decades.
Brewer was 35 when she ran for a council seat in 1989 and won. And she never looked back as she was re-elected seven times as the top vote-getter every time.
“I gave it my best try and was elected my first time out,” she said.
Brewer said it wasn’t easy running for a council seat as some detractors criticized her for bringing her four children, ages 7, 5-1/2, 3 and 3 months old, along as she canvassed Lebanon’s neighborhoods meeting voters.
“I was accused of borrowing a baby to campaign,” she said. “I was told that if I were elected, there would be beauty parlors on every corner and that as a mother, I should be home raising my kids.”
Brewer said she defied those comments. “I had a career and a family. I had the ability and capability and I was relatively successful,” she said.
The Cincinnati native started out her career as a psychiatric art therapist after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University and Eastern Virginia Medical School. Brewer worked in the private sector in that field for 17 years in Virginia and in Ohio. A job opened up in 1992 with the Lebanon City Schools where she began her second career as an art teacher. She retired from that position in May 2015 after 22 years.
As a member of Lebanon council, Brewer has seen the city grow through tenuous times over the past 32 years. However, she said the past two years have been the most challenging leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We worked to promote our local businesses and helped them stay afloat during the pandemic,” she said. “We wanted to create a positive attitude that we can get through this and that it would make us stronger by providing encouragement, strength and guidance in challenging times.”
Brewer said she tried to lead the community as someone who represented everyone in the community.
When asked how she’d describe her tenure in public office, Brewer responded “humbled.”
“I’m humbled by that the community believed in my ability to lead by their support and how much I love this community,” Brewer said.
“I was no better than anyone else,” she said. “I never met a stranger and I valued everyone. I hope that is one legacy I am leaving in my role as mayor.”
Brewer has voted on many issues large and small as well as those that have been controversial, such as last May’s vote to designate Lebanon as a sanctuary city for the unborn. She said that was one of her biggest votes during her council tenure.
“I have no regrets on that decision,” Brewer said. “The (November council) election affirmed that council did the right thing. I believe this is what the community supports.”
She said she has no regrets on other votes over her tenure. Brewer said she always tried to look at the “big picture” and tried to listen to everyone and understand things from their perspective.
“If there were any regrets, maybe it was that I did not do enough -- but that’s hindsight. I’m only one vote of seven but it’s the mayor takes the heat,” she said.
As mayor, Brewer said she has an ability to connect with people across the board and enjoyed being with people as they interacted with her on a variety of topics and issues.
She said she’ll miss the ribbon-cuttings for new businesses in town and performing weddings for former students or people leaving for the military. Brewer performed her last wedding the day after Thanksgiving.
“I loved talking to people and hearing their perspectives,” she said. “That’s what a good leader does -- looks at life from another person’s perspective.”
Brewer’s term ends this week as the new council takes office on Wednesday. Council will hold its reorganization meeting at the city building at that time.
“It will be very difficult to pass on the baton,” she said. “I won’t be doing the things I once did and I am not sure how that will unfold.”
Brewer said she’s stepping back and will let the new mayor and council establish themselves as they have her support. She also said she won’t be attending or watching council meetings either.
Her only advice to her successors on council is to work together, work with the executive management team and listen to the people you serve. Brewer said her hope is that the community continues to thrive and grow its tax base, continue to be financially stable and maintain its charm, character and quality of life.
“It’s bittersweet ending a long-running role in the community,” Brewer said. “I’m OK passing the baton because it has to happen sometime. I’ve made good decisions and I’m leaving on a good, strong note.”
Brewer will continue serving on several boards and was recently appointed to a term on the city Planning Commission starting in January. She will also continue working with a company leading school tours to Washington, D.C. and other destinations. As for her future in politics, Brewer said she has not made any decisions about seeking public office in the future.
At her final meeting, Brewer thanked her colleagues on council, city staff and the community.
Vice Mayor Mark Messer served 10 years on council with Brewer and is expected to succeed her as mayor. He said he’s been asked about filling her shoes and said Brewer’s shoes can’t be filled.
“She’s been an incredible cheerleader for the community,” he said.
City Attorney Mark Yurick said Brewer has been a tireless and enthusiastic advocate for Lebanon.
“She is everywhere at festivals from the start until they end. I don’t know how she does it,” he said.
Yurick shared a story about Brewer’s energy and enthusiasm during a visit to the Golden Lamb by then-President George W. Bush in 2004.
Bush reportedly told Brewer that her energy was “intoxicating.”
Councilman Mike Cope, a former neighbor of Brewer, described her as “genuine and not showy or flashy.”
“Your service to the community is a legacy statement that speaks volumes,” Cope said.
The city is hosting a farewell reception honoring Brewer her 32 years serving Lebanon on Thursday at the Warren County Events Center, 665 N. Broadway in Lebanon. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a short presentation at 6:15 p.m.