A fixture at CCIA for four decades

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

SALISBURY — She can unclog your sink, kill your spiders, counsel you on personal problems and even sell you some insurance.
When Joanne Brown graduated from high school, she did what many people did in Rowan County. She went to work in a sewing factory. Her textile career lasted only one day, not quite as long as she has been in the insurance business.
On Nov. 1, Brown will celebrate her 41st year with Central Carolina Insurance in Salisbury.
“I took all of the business classes in high school, like typing and shorthand,” Brown said in a press release. “So I knew after just a few hours of sewing the same seam, that wasn’t for me.”
She joined the company in 1970 when it was known as Riley-Clay Insurance and owned by John Riley and David Clay. She started straight out of high school as a Commercial Lines Customer Service Representative. Today, she serves as assistant vice president and office manager.
“We have had wonderful bosses to work for,” Brown said. “They have all genuinely been concerned with their employees.”
Brown shows compassion for employees as well and has earned the title “office mom.” Associates in the building often come to Brown with their heartaches and personal problems. She always makes herself available with advice.
Brown jokes that her job description involves everything from making sure that payroll is done to unclogging the kitchen sink, to even killing spiders around the office.
“Joanne is one of the hardest working and consistently pleasant people I have ever met,” said co-owner Jay Whittington, who has worked with Brown for almost all of her 41 years with the company.
Her work ethic comes from being raised on a farm, which she says was an around-the-clock job involving every family member from a very early age. As children, they milked cows and fed the pigs before and after school.
Brown is a little embarrassed by the idea that she has been with Central Carolina for more than half of its 80-year history.
“They say if you ever get into insurance, you stay and that has proven to be my fate and I have enjoyed it,” she said. “I believe that God gives us a fresh sheet of paper every morning and whatever we write on that sheet is permanently in our life, and we can either have a good attitude or our sheet can be marred by what we say and do to others or don’t do for others.
“I strive to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem every day at work.”
These days, Brown and her husband, Guy, enjoy being active in their church and disaster relief work, which has taken them to Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Honduras, Alaska and other places. They have a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
When asked about retirement, Brown says she never thinks about it.
Then again, “moms” never really retire.