Tompkins Weekly

Michele Brown fills Town Board vacancy

From left to right: Mark Witmer, Michele Brown, Kate Kelley Mackenzie and Tim Murray. Photo by Dede Hatch

Michele Brown was recently appointed by the Caroline Town Board to fill a vacancy as Councilperson through December 30, 2023.  

Brown grew up in Endicott, NY and attended Fordham University where she received her Bachelor’s in English. Later, Brown attended the Camberwell College of the Arts in London where she pursued book binding and preservation. 

After some time in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Brown and her family moved to the Ithaca area in 1995 and to Caroline in 1996. Brown was the Book Conservator at Cornell University from 1995 until her retirement in 2021. During that time, she and her husband also maintained a private book restoration practice which she continues.

By Mikayla “Mack” Rovenolt

Brown said that her practice is mostly private work, restoring collections for places like SUNY Buffalo, where she restored their medical book collection. She does this using 19th and 20th century equipment, which takes time and precision.

 “I was a book conservator at Cornell University for 25 years and I still have my own private business where people contact me and I restore their books. This background includes my interest in the conservation of the town hall and [the town board is] getting a grant to have that restored,” Brown added. “Something that is kind of a unique thing is that there isn’t really an emergency response, a plan to preserve town records. I’m interested in setting that up and it wouldn’t be hard; it just takes a little bit of time and legwork. If they had a pipe burst, for example, who would get called,who’s got the keys?”

For the past three years, she has served the Town of Caroline on the Economic and Land Use Development Task Force, the Planning Board, and the Zoning Commission. 

“The very first thing I got involved with here was the fight against fracking, and then I had two kids so I kind of dropped off of things to focus on them, then my husband died eight years ago so I was not involved in things for awhile,” Brown said. “I guess when they decided to form this land use Task Force, Dan Barber recommended me and asked if I’d be interested in applying and so I did. Then, because of the land use Task Force, they asked if I would be interested in applying for the Planning Board, and I did that as well. When they formed the Zoning Commission, everyone on the planning board was moved over to that.”

At her first Town Board Meeting, Michele voted in favor of allowing the Caroline Town Hall Renovation to move forward with her other councilpersons. Other priorities she looks forward to would be helping the Town Board evaluate the proposed zoning law, exploring renewable energy projects, enhancing broadband, supporting initiatives to enhance Town emergency services, and developing an emergency response plan to protect town records and books.

“I think they’re in the middle of a lot of exciting things, not just zoning. I’m interested in helping finish the zoning process, but I think the most exciting thing they have planned will be renewable energy initiatives. The idea of a feasibility study on ground geothermal, plans for cooperative ventures for emergency services, and the Town Hall restoration. I feel like the board has some great initiatives. I’d like to help them continue those initiatives.”

Brown continued: “I know people are very upset about zoning and we really tried to consider everybody’s feelings about this and I feel like the plan proposed is very fair. I feel like it’s important because it helps protect the environment of Caroline and, and I think it helps protect the small town atmosphere,” Brown said. “I think one of the stresses on small towns is big companies coming in buying land and then doing stuff that changes the character. I understand we have to move forward, that everything’s going to change, but I guess I would like to keep Caroline a place where you have small business owners working out of their houses and you can buy land and sort of be assured of what’s going to happen around you.” 

Michele is also endorsed by the Working Families Party and was unanimously appointed by the Caroline Democratic Committee to run in the November 8, 2023 election to fill the remaining two-year term. 

Small Towns appears the second week of each month in Tompkins Weekly, covering Caroline, Danby, Varna, Etna and Enfield. Send story ideas to

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