Brownie grew up on a working farm in Pickens County, South Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He and his brother Boyd spent much of their time in the summer bailing hay and in the winter, they planted trees with their dad, Leon. Brownie moved to Asheville in 1990 to attend Warren Wilson College, where he received a BA in History and Political Science.
Brownie served as the Executive Director of the Western North Carolina Alliance, where he worked with state legislators to develop and pass the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act. This legislation reduced air pollution emissions from the Duke Energy coal-fired power plant in Asheville by more than 90%. It also required the clean-up of other coal-fired power plants across North Carolina.
Brownie was elected to the Asheville City Council in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007. Brownie was elected to the Buncombe County Commission in 2012 and was elected to represent District 1. He was elected Chairman of the County Commission in 2016.
During his time on the County Commission, Brownie led the effort for Buncombe County to commit to using 100% renewable energy. He supported increased pay for public school teachers, increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all county employees.
In 2008, Brownie joined with four other people who had recently started FLS Energy, a local solar energy company. As a member of the management team, Brownie helped FLS Energy become a national leader in the solar industry, growing from seven to 70 employees. Brownie served as the VP of Business Development for FLS. In 2015, Brownie founded a new solar energy company, Headwaters Solar.
Brownie and his wife Beth live in the Montford neighborhood. Beth is originally from LaGrange, GA. She received a BA from Davidson College and a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary. Beth and Brownie have two daughters, Tess and Lizzy.
Frequently Asked Question: Where did Brownie get his name?
My grandfather, Burrel Newman, was an Air Force pilot in World War II. On June 11th, 1943, Burrel’s B-17 was shot down over the naval dockyards in Germany. He died in the crash. After the war, my Grandmother Laura married again to a man named Brownie Stevenson. He was a father-figure to my dad, and his name was passed on to me.