Brizzell passes torch

Despite her steadfast commitment to town government and the office of Colonie supervisor, outgoing Supervisor Mary Brizzell wasn't always civic-minded.

For Brizzell, 64, her interest in local leadership really ignited at an age when most begin weighing retirement, in her mid-50s.

There had always a spark of commitment to her community, fostered by a relationship between her late father and former Supervisor Fred Fields. A longtime Republican supervisor, Fields worked at a local steel mill with Brizzell's father. It would lead her to pursue degrees in sociology, hoping one day to become a social worker.

That's how I got started out in life as a volunteer in the North Colonie School system. That's how I got involved with the community, said Brizzell.

Brizzell quickly fell into a juggling act of volunteerism, serving in a political office and working at Brizzell's Flowers, the retail shop she ran with her husband. Two years ago, the shop was sold, along with a portion of the Brizzell family farm, and this week she left her post as supervisor, but she will always continue her volunteer work. And maybe some retail as well.

She said some of the best moments of her career involved her work on planning initiatives such as helping to protect the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and the town's 10-mile stretch of Mohawk River waterfront. She recently received awards for her involvement with both.

In 1971, Brizzell vicariously entered town politics through her husband, Bill, who sat on the town's planning board. In 1983, she took a seat on the zoning board of appeals. In less than a year she made her way onto the town board. Ten years later, Fields asked her to follow in his footsteps as supervisor.

She remembers his parting sentiment: "It's more leading by example than by rhetoric."

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