Kathy Brown, right, is joined by At-Large City Councilor Rusty Greenleaf at the Gardiner City Council table Wednesday after she was appointed to fill the council seat formerly held by Penny Sergent. The seat was declared vacant in September, when Sergent moved out of Gardiner. Brown’s appointment is until the June election, when she can choose to run for the seat. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — Elected officials have appointed Kathy Brown to fill the vacant seat on the City Council.

The decision came at Wednesday’s City Council meeting after the council had sent out a request for people interested in filling the seat to submit letters of interest.

Brown, 74, has spent her career working for the Catholic Church at local parishes, and she has served as the North America representative to Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican agency that oversees the development and charitable activities of the Catholic Church around the globe.

She also served on the Housing Commission for the city of Phoenix, on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hunger in Arizona and as president of a community development corporation, which gave her experience in both historical preservation and affordable housing.

She and her husband moved to Gardiner in July 2020.

“Why am I interested? It’s precisely because we came at the same time that a lot of other people have come to this town,” Brown said during her comments to the City Council on Wednesday. “I have a way of saying it: I am not so much sure that we chose Gardiner as Gardiner chose us.”

Brown said she and her husband, who volunteer with Gardiner Main Street, have been impressed by what they have seen, including the region’s rich history and zest for events. At the same time, she said she has seen challenges in Gardiner and Kennebec County.

In an interview Thursday, Brown said she’s interested in working on issues that involve downtown Gardiner and making it a lively place to go. But she’d also like to work on engaging newcomers, like herself, to get involved in community events and activities.

“It’s kind of a passion of mine — how do you connect to bring people into the circle so we can build a bigger community,” Brown said. “That’s something I will be looking to see if I can make happen, and how does that connect to downtown? I’m sure it does.”

A large part of her life has been involved in trying to engage people in politics and policy issues, and in communities and parishes.

“I have continually found that people think they don’t have anything to contribute,” Brown said. “People need to know they have a lot to bring.”

The vacancy was created after former At-Large City Councilor Penny Sergent left Gardiner in September, prompting the City Council to declare the seat vacant. Sergent had lost her home to foreclosure for unpaid property taxes and sewer fees before she was elected to the council in 2020.

The vacancy drew interest from two people, Brown, and Scott Williams, a former Gardiner city councilor who had served three terms before stepping down.

In his letter and in brief comments to the council, Williams said he loves Gardiner and has committed to stay there after recently buying a home in the city. He pointed to his experience in working on a number of policy issues during his time on the council, including the acquisition and redevelopment of the T.W. Dick property and his time on the Audit, Parks and Recreation, and Economic Development committees.

Brown is expected to be sworn in Friday.

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