It was, she acknowledged, an unusual career change. Ten years ago, Kelly Brown gave up a lucrative job as a nationally-known interior designer to become president of the SPCA of Anne Arundel County. Overnight, she imagined fancy custom-made sofas as scratching posts, and chic carpets with puddle stains.
“I gave up design work to follow my heart, and I’ve never looked back,” said Brown, 54, who grew up in Annapolis and now lives in Crownsville. “Since [age] 5, all I’ve wanted was to be around animals. I used to paint my dog’s toenails. Now I’m back where my heart lies.”
In her decade in charge, Brown has launched everything from low-cost spay/neuter programs to cut-rate vaccine clinics and food banks for low-income pet owners. In 2014, the SPCA adopted a “no-kill” policy for the 2,000 dogs, cats and small animals that pass through annually, and its current save rate is 98%.
“It has been a fun journey,” said Brown. “Every morning that I turn into this driveway and see the dogs outside in the shelter’s yards, each in need of a permanent home, I think, ‘This is why I’m here.’ "
Here are three things you might like to know about Brown:
Modeling was her first career.
“I started modeling professionally at 13, both print ads and commercials, and did it for 30 years, [touting] everything from Amtrak to Hyatt Hotels. In the 1990s, my butt wound up on a billboard on the outfield wall in [old] Yankee Stadium in New York. It was an ad for low-fat Utz Potato Chips, and the Utz logo was embroidered on the back pocket of my jeans.”
She’s a former Miss Montana USA.
“While living and working there, in 1994, I entered the pageant and won. Among my prizes was a coyote coat embroidered with my name. That was a little challenging for me; I appreciate the coyotes and I don’t even eat meat. I spend my days saving animals, so you can imagine how I felt.”
Her brother-in-law is game show host Pat Sajak.
“Once, on the set of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ I stood in for Vanna White during a rehearsal and got to spin the wheel and work the puzzle board. Everyone wants to know what that feels like. It was fun.”